Tasmania’s state government was the nation’s first to pass laws protecting renters from eviction if they lost their income due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The state government made changes to residential tenancies with the introduction of the Covid-19 Disease (Emergency Provisions) Act 2020.
Immediate ban on evictions due to rent arrears
While Tasmania will not force negotiations between landlords and tenants, they have banned evictions with any notice to vacate issued by an owner to a tenant having no effect until 30 June 2020. This doesn’t mean that renters can stop paying, even if they have lost their income because of industry closures. They are only protected from being kicked out of their home. Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said the laws would “ensure tenants have the incentive to continue to pay rent during the emergency period, where they are able to do so.”
An owner or tenant can also apply to the Magistrates Court of Tasmania to terminate the agreement as a result of violence or damage caused by wilful behaviour. Either party can also end a lease if they are experiencing severe hardship. As a last resort option, parties can apply to the Residential Tenancy Commissioner (the Commissioner) to have an Order to terminate the agreement in the case of severe Covid-19 related hardship.
A ban on inspections
House inspections and maintenance repairs are also banned, unless in an emergency situation. This does not prevent inspections by an owner or their agent where it is agreed by the tenant. When an allowed inspection takes place during the emergency period, owners are encouraged to consider all current health advice and social distancing requirements, including reducing the number of people present in a property at one time. These measures will remain in place for the Coronavirus emergency period, unless notice is given by the Residential Tenancy Commissioner.
Putting a stop to increasing residential and commercial rents
The legislation also gives the Tasmanian government power to stop landlords from increasing rents for commercial and residential tenants. However, it will be up to the landlord and tenant to agree to any rent reductions during the Covid-19 pandemic period. This agreement should be in writing and signed by both parties. Any agreement will form part of the residential tenancy agreement.
The Tasmanian government recommends landlords and tenants maintain a positive relationship and discuss their concerns with each other before taking action. For more information, visit the Consumer, Building and Occupational Services website.