On Tuesday 21 April 2020, the WA Government passed a Residential Tenancy Act amendment, bringing into law a six-month moratorium (pause) on residential tenancy evictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The moratorium period is effective as of Monday 30 March 2020 – Wednesday 30 September 2020, but the length of the moratorium is subject to change by regulations to deal with evolving circumstances.
The law applies to all Western Australian residential tenancies and has also incorporated boarding house residents and lodgers, who have not previously been covered by the Residential Tenancies Act. As such, the COVID-19 Residential Tenancies Act amendment applies to all current Access Housing tenancies and lodging house residencies within our housing portfolio.
At the core of Access Housing’s operations is a commitment to sustaining tenancies. In line with this, Access Housing acknowledges the intent of the new law as it offers protections for tenants suffering rental stress and provides greater security of tenure during the COVID-19 pandemic. As lodging facilities are not normally covered by the Residential Tenancies Act, we are working with other organisations in the housing and homeless support sectors to lobby government to ensure we can continue to manage our lodging facilities safely and securely under this rental reform during the COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to working through this with our sector partners and the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) in the days ahead whilst we continue to support each of our tenants and lodging house residents. Supporting our tenants and residents continues to be our highest priority, particularly during these difficult times.
Key points from the Residential Tenancies Act COVID-19 amendment are:
- No rent increases can become effective between 30/3/20 – 30/09/20 (Access Housing implemented this prior to the WA government legislating it – please click here for more details)
- No terminations of tenancies will take place except in the following limited circumstances:
- Tenant causing serious damage to the property or injury to a person
- Family Domestic Violence (FDV) – current legislation for FDV and residential tenancies still applies but now also applies to boarders and lodgers
- By the mutual consent of lessor and tenant
- Not paying rent and/or refusing to enter into a rent repayment agreement.
- Tenants can still voluntarily vacate their rental property after giving the usual 21 days’ notice or immediately in instances of FDV
- Borders and lodgers are included in the amendment
- Fixed term tenancies will become periodic tenancies if they are not renewed during the emergency COVID-19 period
- Rent must continue to be paid by the tenant. Any rent not paid will be a debt due and owing to the lessor at the end of the emergency period. If the tenant fails to enter into an agreement to repay the debt in a timely manner, normal processes for recovery of the debt will resume when the emergency period ends.
- With regard to Rental Arrears, tenants who fail to pay rent that is not due to financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic can be issued with a written remedial notice offering a rent repayment agreement. The tenant has 60 days after the remedial notice is issued to pay the rent or enter into a rent payment agreement. If the tenant fails to pay or enter into a rent payment agreement, the lessor can apply for an order to terminate the tenancy but first must make a submission to Consumer Protection for a conciliation proceeding. Consumer Protection will either certify conciliation action or certify the lessor to proceed with an order for possession through the court. The court may grant an order for possession or make other orders as appropriate. Tenants who are experiencing financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be issued with a rent default notice (breach notice) unless a rent repayment agreement has been entered into and the tenant has failed to adhere to the agreement and a submission for a conciliation proceeding has been made to Consumer Protection and Consumer Protection certifies the notice being issued.
- Maintenance – landlords are exempt from carrying out routine maintenance during the emergency period but must carry out urgent repairs.
As an organisation, Access Housing made a conscious decision at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis in Australia to review our policies and procedures to ensure we were doing, and could continue to do, everything reasonably required of us to sustain tenancies during a pandemic situation. One such decision we made and implemented prior to the WA government passing its legislation was postponing any rent increases until the first rent due date on or after Thursday 1 October 2020. This date will be continually reviewed in line with government advice and may be extended if appropriate. Access Housing continues to do annual eligibility and rent reviews as they become due during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, any rent reviews completed that result in an increase to rent payable will not become effective until the first rent due date on or after Thursday 1 October 2020. If a tenant’s rent payable decreases we will, as usual, apply the decrease from the date we are advised of the tenant’s change of circumstances.
Further to the McGowan government’s COVID-19 amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act, on Thursday 23 April it also announced a new $154.5 million relief package to support tenants, landlords and construction industry. The key aspect of this package with regards to residential tenancies is the provision of $30 million for grants of up to $2,000 for residential tenants who have lost their job and face financial hardship due to COVID-19. For more information about this relief package, please click here.
Access Housing continues to closely monitor and heed the advice from Federal and State Government Health Departments to assist with the ongoing safety of our staff, tenants, contractors and broader community. In line with this advice, our offices will remain closed until further notice. Our staff are, however, continuing to provide a high quality service to each of our valued tenants and residents whist working from home and remain contactable via email and telephone. For more information about how our staff and maintenance contractors are delivering services to tenants and residents while our offices remain closed, please click here.
Please continue to stay safe and healthy by following the directives given to the community by our Federal and State-based COVID-19 experts.
RELATED COVID-19 SERVICE DELIVERY INFORMATION FOR TENANTS