COVID-19 tenancy protections property owners must follow

Greater protections for tenants have been introduced as part of the Government’s COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Amendment Act. Here’s what landlords need to know. 
The measure was introduced on 23 March 2020 and includes a freeze on residential rent increases and prevention of tenancies being terminated. 
The rent freeze means that landlords will not be able to make increases to rent for an initial period of six months (the Government may decide to extend this period). Any rent increase notice from landlords will not be valid unless it has already taken effect prior to the rent freeze. After the Bill comes into effect on 26 March 2020, new rent increases will take no effect, even if the increase was negotiated prior to the Bill’s release.
In most circumstances, landlords will also be prohibited from terminating tenancies during the lock-down period without the consent of the tenant. If the tenant chooses to or agrees to terminate their tenancy, this can be undertaken as usual. Additionally, tenants will be able to revoke already existing termination notices if they need to stay in the tenancy during the lock-down period. If a landlord has already given a termination notice, but it is not set to come into effect until after the Bill, then it will have no effect. 
Landlords will only be able to terminate a tenant if they:
Make substantial damages to the premises. 
Assaults or threatens to assault the landlord or their family.
Abandon the property.
Undertake significant antisocial behaviour, such as harassment.
Are 60 days behind in rent (increased from the original 21 days). In this case, the Tenancy Tribunal will determine if the tenant is making reasonable endeavours to pay rent).
Are a sole tenant who has died.
Despite the new changes, if a tenant has not paid their landlord owed rent for over 60 days, landlords will still be able to take the tenant to the Tenancy Tribunal. The Tribunal may decide that the tenant is liable for eviction if it is determined that they were not making reasonable efforts to pay rent. 
Tenants will remain liable for rent arrears, and tenants and landlords must agree on the amount owed. If there are disputes concerning the amount owed where both parties cannot reach an agreement, the Tenancy Tribunal can be contacted to settle matters.


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