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Queensland Residential Tenancies and COVID-19

The Queensland Government has inserted into the Residential Tenancies Legislation a variation of the rights of Queensland residential landlords and tenants for the period from 29 March 2020 to 29 September 2020 which is called the COVID-19 Emergency Period (‘COVID-19’).

The principal rationale behind the amendments is to ensure those tenants who experience financial distress as a result of COVID-19 continue to be able to remain in their rented premises, no matter how severe their financial situation becomes. The concern is they may otherwise become homeless.

Changes to residential tenancy laws during COVID-19

A landlord is not able to evict a residential tenant if the tenant fails to pay the rent due to his suffering excessive hardship because of the COVID-19 emergency.

The new legislation details the circumstances that amounts to “suffers excessive hardship”.

The main circumstances are:

  1. The tenant or a person under their care has COVID-19 or is in quarantine;
  2. The tenant’s place of employment is closed or restricted;
  3. The tenant suffers a loss of income of 25% or more or the rent is 30% or more of the tenant’s income.

Upon a landlord being satisfied that the tenant has suffered excessive hardship as a result of COVID-19, the landlord is obliged to attempt to negotiate a reduced rental. A tenant should provide evidence of the hardship such as a separation certificate from their employer. If the landlord and tenant are able to agree on a reduced rental, the parties then sign a variation to their tenancy agreement. If the parties are unable to agree, then either party may apply under the residential tenancy legislation for the dispute to be resolved through conciliation.

You would then have a meeting with the conciliator and if an agreement is reached, then a Conciliation Agreement is signed. If an agreement cannot be reached, then a hearing is held by the relevant tribunal, QCAT, to make a decision.

Also, if the tenancy agreement expires before 29 September 2020 and the tenant is continuing to suffer excessive hardship, the tenant can require the tenancy agreement to be extended to 30 September 2020 at the same rental.

Help available for residential tenancy landlords

What else can a residential tenancy landlord do? Not a lot. You may seek reduction or a waiver of your land tax payable to the Queensland Government. Click here to see our Zoë Brereton’s article on our website dated 21 April 2020 for further information on that.

If you are a residential landlord and need advice on your circumstances, we can help you.

 

Please note that this article was prepared by Tom Trembath Snr of Bell Legal Group for general information only. It is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. For legal advice, please telephone our office on 07 5597 3366 or complete the ‘Contact Us‘ form below.