The Queensland state government has unveiled a $400 million Covid-19 rent relief package to encourage tenants, property owners and agents to work together to sustain tenancies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Deputy Premier and Queensland Treasurer, Jackie Trad, announced Queensland’s Covid-19 rent relief package on Thursday, 9 April which also includes incentivises for landlords to pass on rent relief.
Freeze on rental evictions
Announced by the national cabinet and left to the states to apply, the eviction moratorium in Queensland will freeze all evictions from 29 March and force property owners to offer extensions of at least six months to tenants whose leases expire during the pandemic. Tenants who could prove a loss of income that left them unable to pay rent will also be free from eviction. Alternatively, if a tenant can’t pay rent due to the impacts of Covid-19 and they choose to end their lease early, they will be allowed to do so.
Rental support for those experiencing hardship will also form part of the package. New eligibility criteria is now in place for rental grants of up to four weeks rent, or a maximum of $2,000 as a last resort for tenants who are still waiting for federal government financial support. If a landlord offers a rent freeze to a tenant, they would be allowed to extend the lease for however long the rent-free period is.
New rules for landlords
Under the new Covid-19 protection package, landlords will be banned from asking tenants to draw on their superannuation or personal assets to meet payments. They will also be unable to request personal financial information from their tenants or conduct non-essential inspections and maintenance unless the maintenance is urgent or can be done while observing social distancing. There also will be a ban on requiring tenants to pay back rent arrears during the period of negotiation, or if they are awarded a reduced rent at the end of a lease if they are in financial hardship.
Where an agreement can’t be reached between the landlords and tenants, there will be compulsory conciliation for COVID-19 related disputes through the Residential Tenancies Authority. Housing Minister, Mick de Brenni, said that Queenslanders would always rally to support each, “neither landlords nor tenants are to blame for this, and now is the time for them to work together to get through this pandemic.”
Land tax relief will also be made available to landowners who rent out all or part of a property to at least one tenant who is unable to make payments due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The land tax waiver can be accessed if the landlord agrees to a rental decrease for a tenant, if they can prove they have been financially impacted by the crisis and lockdown. Owners who are unable to fill their property due to the pandemic, and who need the relief to meet their own financial obligations, will also be eligible. Applications will open to landlords on 14 April.
These changes will be made through amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act and other regulations and will stay in place during the Covid-19 public health emergency. The Queensland Government has also launched an online rental hub at covid19.qld.gov.au/the-hub to provide information and resources to support discussions between property owners and renters.