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FAQs: COVID-19 commercial tenancy changes

Last updated: 6 October 2020

The State Government extended the emergency period under the Act until 28 March 2021. The new legislation and code introduced earlier in 2020 will continue to apply with some changes until this date. From 30 September, the changes include protection and rent relief being available to tenants who are experiencing ongoing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Can tenants stop paying rent if they have been affected by COVID-19?

If able to do so, tenants cannot refuse to pay rent.

Are JobKeeper payments to be included when determining turnover?

No, they are excluded.

Will eligible tenants have to pay interest on rent that has been deferred?

No, landlords cannot charge eligible tenants interest or add other charges to deferred rent.

What happens if the landlord refuses to respond in writing?

The landlord is compelled by law to respond. Tenants who find themselves in this situation should refer their landlord to the Act, and if there is still no response contact us before the end of the emergency period (currently 28 March 2021, unless extended).

What if a landlord and tenant are unable to reach an agreement about rent relief?

If no agreement can be reached on a rent relief, contact us for help through our dispute resolution service, this may include referral to a mediator. Our mediation service is currently available free of charge in relation to issues associated with rent relief.

If this mediation fails to resolve the issue, an application can be made to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) for determination. An application to resolve a dispute cannot be made to the SAT unless:

  • One or both of the parties that come to our dispute resolution team at the SBDC, and the Small Business Commissioner has provided them with a certificate to proceed to the SAT; or
  • Neither of the parties requested assistance from the dispute resolution team at the SBDC and they both agree to go directly to the SAT (this option is only available during the emergency period).

When the SAT is making a decision it is likely to take into consideration any comments the Small Business Commissioner has made on the certificate regarding the good faith conduct of the parties. 

No fee will be charged by SAT in relation to issues covered by the Commercial Tenancies (COVID-19) Act 2020.

The John Curtin Law Clinic at Curtin University has created a short video explaining what to expect if you take a COVID-19 related commercial tenancy issue to the SAT. Please note, it only provides general information, not legal advice.

Can an eligible tenant make a further request for rent relief after an original agreement has been made?

An eligible tenant can make a further request for rent relief to the landlord if their financial circumstances changed substantially after an agreement was reached, by following the same process.

Can a landlord compel a tenant to extend a lease as a condition of offering rent relief?

No, extending a lease should be part of a separate discussion and not linked to rent relief.

Can a landlord draw down on an eligible tenant’s security to cover unpaid rent?

No, landlords may not draw down on an eligible tenant’s security to cover unpaid rent during the emergency period.

Will confidential information provided by a tenant or landlord remain confidential?

A landlord or tenant must not divulge or communicate protected information obtained in connection with the code, unless authorised under the code.

Are there any circumstances in which a landlord can evict an eligible tenant during the emergency period?

A landlord can still evict a tenant for reasons not related to COVID-19, for example if the tenant has damaged the premises or failed to vacate the premises after the expiry of a fixed term lease.

Is there any financial support available for landlords?

The Australian Banking Association (ABA) announced a Small Business Relief Package in response to COVID-19 to allow borrowers such as commercial landlords of properties to access financial support.

Eligible landlords can also apply for the Land Tax Assistance for Landlords program to receive payments equivalent to 25 per cent of their land tax bill for 2019-20 relating to eligible tenants.

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