SUPRA has been assisting many students with tenancy matters related to the impacts of COVID-19. Here are the answers to the most common questions.
Extra protections are in place. These include a restriction on eviction for rent arrears for eligible tenants, and extended notice periods for certain other lease termination reasons.
The extra protections are in place from 15 April 2020 until 26 March 2021, unless extended.
The restriction on eviction for rent arrears only applies to COVID-19-impacted tenants. To be eligible you must be able to show that you or a rent-paying member of your household has:
had to stop or reduce work hours because either they had COVID-19, or because of carer responsibilities due to COVID-19
Find out more about eligibility and the process.
All tenants not impacted by COVID-19 are expected to keep paying their rent and charges in full.
If you need a rent reduction, your landlord (or agent) must enter into good faith negotiations.
You should write to your landlord to start the process. NSW Fair Trading has prepared this template letter for you to fill in and send to your landlord.
If you do negotiate a rent reduction, make sure you get it in writing.
You will need to provide evidence to show that you meet the eligibility requirements. This could include proof such as payslips, or bank statements.
Landlords can’t tell you to access your superannuation to cover the rent. They can only make you aware of the Government’s early Superannuation Access scheme. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply for this scheme.
You or your landlord should apply to use the formal dispute resolution process for rent reduction negotiations provided by NSW Fair Trading. You will need to provide evidence to NSW Fair Trading about your previous income and all of your current income.
From 14 June 2020, if you fall behind on your rent due to COVID-19 and are eligible for protection, the landlord must apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (NCAT) to evict you for rent arrears.
At NCAT your landlord will first need to show that they undertook formal rent reduction negotiations with you through NSW Fair Trading. They must also show that it is fair and reasonable to evict you.
If your household income was affected by COVID-19, you don’t have to leave. The landlord will need to go to NCAT to obtain an order so that they can evict you.
If you receive a termination notice from your landlord, contact us for advice.
If you’re in a periodic (or ongoing) agreement, you still need to give 21 days’ notice.
If you’re in a fixed term agreement, you’ll need to break the lease. You’ll need to pay the break fee, or compensation for breaking the lease early.
However, if you are eligible and have tried formal rent negotiations through NSW Fair Trading with your landlord, you can apply to NCAT to have the break fee reduced to a maximum of 2 weeks’ rent.
See the NCAT website for more details, and for how to make an application to NCAT.
If you think you might need to break your lease, contact us for advice before you take any action.
It depends on what type of rent reduction you negotiated. You can reduce rent by a waiver, a deferral, or a mixture of both.
A rent waiver is where your landlord agrees you don’t have to pay that portion of your rent at all. A rent deferral is where your landlord agrees to let you pay that portion of your rent at a later date.
When negotiating with your landlord, think about whether or not you’ll be able to pay any deferred rent in the future.
You should make sure your written agreement states exactly what has been agreed to. If you accept a rent deferral, make sure you include the start date of the repayments and the amount of the instalments.
You can’t be listed on a tenancy database (‘blacklisted’) if the listing is for rent arrears and you were eligible for extra protection because you were financially impacted by COVID-19.
If you’re not an eligible tenant, you could be listed on a tenancy database for rent arrears for up to 3 years.
An extended notice period of 90 days now applies for all tenants when a landlord wants to end:
Find out more about the extended notice periods.
Be aware that the rules may vary for different types of agreements or different kinds of housing.
If you are not sure what type of agreement or kind of housing you have, contact us for advice.
Find out more about:
Our Casework and Legal services can also provide advice and assistance with tenancy and other Covid-19-related problems.
This information is current as at December 2020 and is intended as a guide to the law as it applies to people who live in or are affected by the law as it applies in NSW. It does not constitute legal advice.