Our vast land, open spaces and locking down the cities have allowed Australia to fare very well during COVID-19. As we start to re-open, lift some of the restrictive measures, and start occupying our cities again, we remain hopeful that the trend continues and we can all return to some degree of normal. Given this current state of uncertainty, we’re aiming to clarify the common questions faced by landlords in Sydney and the rest of New South Wales.
Whether you own an investment property, are looking to buy one, or you’re a tenant, we’re exploring all of the new rules and regulations introduced as a result of COVID-19.
Moratorium on Evictions
As directed by the National Cabinet, New South Wales has also introduced the six-month moratorium on evictions for those people that have been seriously impacted by COVID-19. We have seen both termination notices for reasons other than those impacted by COVID-19 requiring extended notice periods, in addition to a 60 day stop on any new termination notices or applications for reasons such as rental arrears where the underlying cause has been COVID-19.
Good Faith Negotiations on Rent Required
Once the 60 day stop on the new termination notices applies, which starts on the 15th April, then landlords must enter negotiations with the tenants in good faith to discuss rent reduction. Failing this, they can then request assistance from Fair Trading, and only after this, if it’s been unsuccessful, can the landlord seek to termination the agreement.
Eligibility for the 60 Day Stop and Moratorium
To be eligible for both of these new measures, you must be able to demonstrate that you have been impacted by COVID-19, which includes the following measures where one or more of the rent paying members of the household must have:
- Lost their job or income as a result of COVID-19
- Had a reduction in their work house as a result of COVID-19
- Had to stop working or materially reduce due to illness with COVID-19 or if a family member contracts the virus and the rent-paying member needs to assist them
- Any of these factors must have led to a 25% reduction of the weekly household income relative to prior to this crisis.
Open House Inspections
From Saturday 9th May 2020, the NSW State Government has lifted the restrictions on open house inspections. This includes any property inspections that are carried out onsite for the purposes of selling the property, leasing it and also for display homes. The owners and property agents must still ensure the appropriate social distancing and hygiene protocols are adhered to and there must be at least 4 square metres of space for each person inside a property.
The figures are set to increase to 100 people in indoor spaces and 500 in outdoor spaces. Property auctions and other sale events are recommended to be conducted online via digital platforms where possible, however from the 9th May live auctions can be held as long as the social distancing measures are adhered to.
Information Landlords Can Request From Tenants
In the event that a tenant is seeking a rent reduction or some form of deferral, the landlord is able to request some supporting documentation such as a letter from the tenants’ employer or ex-employer confirming that they have lost their job or seen a significant reduction in working hours. The tenant does not have to provide any documentation such as bank statements or other financial documentation that is considered personal, however if you are a tenant seeking a rental reduction, it may be wise to at least provide a letter to your property manager or landlord outlining your personal financial situation.
If you do own property in New South Wales or are looking to buy property, be sure that you’re aware of your rights as a landlord. You can reach out to your property manager with any specific questions regarding your tenant or your rights and obligations.
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