With the release of the new regulation late on Wednesday, we at Let’s Rent been working hard to plan how to best support our tenants and owners.
Here is a link to the Fair Trading website which explains the new regulation together with some flow charts and FAQ’s – https://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/resource-library/publications/coronavirus-covid-19/property/moratorium
Its tough for many people out there right now. Jobs have been lost, hours have been cut, businesses have closed or been severely affected. How do I know this? Because we are speaking with tenants and owners in distress each day.
The government says that tenants in rent arrears and Covid affected cannot be evicted for 6 months; only tenants experiencing a loss in household income of 25% or more can access a rent relief negotiation process; tenants should keep paying rent and landlords should ask their banks for a break on their mortgage or access a 25% waiver or rebate on land tax. All that is true but how do we best navigate negotiations for all concerned?
Honestly, we are finding each tenant and owner situation different. The biggest barrier to progressing discussions right now is the provision of sufficient documentation to qualify tenants for the negotiation process. We get it. Not all employers are providing documentation and Centrelink is extremely backed up so you don’t know the level of financial support you’ll receive. So, we are trying to move ahead where possible with rent deferment and mutual agreements that can be signed off when we do received all of the supporting documentation.
Essentially, we need you to show what your income was previously and what it is now including any government support. For business owners, its the same. If you could complete the Rent Relief Form and upload your supporting docs that would be great. If you’ve already completed your form, you can upload any additional docs or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Owners really appreciate if you can contribute what you can to the rent right now. It helps us in negotiations too as well as minimising rental arrears.
Our position is to mediate the best an outcome under the new regulation and its not always going to suit all parties. Owners will offer less than what tenants expect. Tenants will expect more than owners feel they can manage. We need to get to an agreement that both tenant and owner can live with right now.
We’d like to thank you for your patience and understanding. It is very much appreciated and we are so heartened by the positive way in which both tenants and owners have responded to an unprecedented change to all our lives.
We need to find balance, compassion and understanding for each individual, family or household whether tenant or owner. So please, let’s work together.
02 9555 4886
It’s been a big week… I’m sure you’re all keen to hear our response to the new Residential Tenancies Amendment (COVID-19) Regulation 2020. Although it’s a bit of a mouthful, the document itself is just a few pages. Simple right?… I will say that we feel fortunate to have been given a way in which to qualify those requesting rental relief.
The New Regulation by Fair Trading Regarding COVID-19
I’ve copied the link to Fair Trading’s explanation which also includes a couple of flow charts which does make it look relatively simple. https://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/resource-library/publications/coronavirus-covid-19/property/moratorium
The New Coronavirus Regulations Simplified:
- To qualify for the right to enter into rent relief negotiations, a tenancy must demonstrate that the household has experienced a loss of 25% or more in household income as a result of COVID-19.
- For those who meet this criteria and agreement is reached between owner and tenant as to how rent will be paid, there is a 6 month moratorium on an eviction due to rental arrears.
- There is an interim 60 day stop on owners issuing termination notices or applying to NCAT for eviction orders due to rental arrears, where tenants meet the COVID-19 affected criteria. This interim stop is to allow time for owners and tenants to be able to establish the amount of financial support they will receive and for good faith negotiations between owners and tenants to occur.
- Where agreement cannot be reached, either the owner or tenant is able to make a complaint to Fair Trading who will then try to mediate an outcome. Fair Trading has no power to make a binding ruling so if this fails, the next step would be to attend NCAT.
- Tenants who do not qualify are still under the same legislation as they were previously. We are able to issue a termination notice when rent is in arrears by more than 14 days and a tenant can be evicted as a result but this must be ordered by NCAT. Of course an application for hearing needs to be made to NCAT and subsequent hearing would take place.
- Rent continues to be due and payable unless a mutual agreement is reached to reduce the rent either by abatement or deferment.
- The regulation extends the notice periods for certain other lease termination reasons to 90 days. Examples would be to terminate a tenancy at the end of a lease or a terminate a tenancy on a periodic agreement or for a breach of the agreement other than non-payment of rent.
- At any time owners can still apply to the Tribunal to take possession of a property if they are suffering undue hardship.
Complications with Rental Tenants
One of the biggest issues right now is that the money is still not flowing from Centrelink and therefore we are unable to establish if a household qualifies for rent relief negotiations. We are assuming that they will and commencing negotiations but will only be able to confirm any rent relief agreement when the proof of 25% reduction in household income is provided. In the meantime, we are asking tenants to pay what they can, and as such any unpaid rent becomes rental arrears which is required to be paid. That may change if for example a rent abatement is agreed. In this case, the tenant would not be required to pay an agreed sum of rent.
Government Support For Property Owners
It is clear when reading government announcements that they expect owners to approach their lender to freeze payments on their mortgage for a period of time in order to be able to offer rent relief to tenants. In addition, landlords will be eligible for a land tax waiver or rebate of up to 25% if they pass the saving on to tenants in financial distress. This doesn’t appear to amount to much since only 16% of landlords in NSW pay land tax.
We are concerned that some landlord insurance policies will not respond where a tenancy ends and rent is still outstanding. Normally we have to issue a termination notice when a tenant is 15 days or more in arrears and apply to Tribunal for an eviction. With the interim stop on issuing termination notices, this creates a gap that may be used by an insurer to decline a claim. Some insurers have announced that a termination notice is not required for a claim to progress. We await responses from other insurers as to how they will manage this but our understanding at this stage is that we must show firstly if the tenant qualifies or does not for rent relief negotiations. Then we must follow a process to mitigate any loss. We have just a few tenancies at the moment where they are more than 14 days in arrears so if your tenancy is one of those, we will have contacted you already.
Some Good News
Despite the government and media warning of rental properties with no tenants and no rent being paid, we have good enquiry on available rentals generally. Our leasing team have done an exceptional job adapting to the changes and in fact this week we were able to secure deposits on 8 properties. I’m not saying that rental prices have not been affected but for properties that are new to the market or being relet, there are tenants available.
We’ll contact you if your tenant has approached us for rent relief to discuss the information we have at that time and what the next steps might be. Each situation is different. We have been contacted by some tenants to let us know they are ok and will continue to be able to pay rent. We’ll let you know if this happens too.
The team and I would like to thank you all for your support and understanding in these difficult times. As you can imagine, due to the sheer volume of communication we are dealing with, our response times are a bit slower than usual. That said, please feel free to call us if you have any questions or concerns.
I hope you have all taken a moment to remember today what the ANZAC’s did for our nation and others. We are truly grateful for their sacrifice and efforts.
We are also very grateful for the nations adherence to restrictions and for the affect that has had on new Covid cases. Indications are that we will soon be easing those restrictions which is great news for us all!
As I’m sure you can imagine, we have been working through rent relief requests and resolving where we can. We had 65 tenancies affected at the beginning of the week. We’ve actually received lots more documentation from our tenants this week as information and documentation has flowed through from the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programmes. Businesses are also receiving financial relief through credits on their BAS. I haven’t yet heard of a business owner receiving a grant but I do know some have applied.
I thought I’d recap on this subject today so that I can give you an update on the rather slippery subject 10 days on from the release of the Regulation. See here if you’d like a refresher –https://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/resource-library/publications/coronavirus-covid-19/property/moratorium
With the increase in tenants being informed of the payments they will receive from Centrelink, we have been able to close off on some rent relief requests as those tenants do not qualify. I even received an email from a tenant yesterday morning, the first one I read, withdrawing their request for rent relief. A great way to start the day!
For those landlords who do pay land tax and the tenant can provide appropriate evidence of a reduction in household income of 25% or more, it is appropriate to apply for the 25% rebate or waiver on land tax. This is effectively what the government is directing us to do. The rebate or waiver must be passed onto the tenant in full. This is actually the only way landlords are being supported in the stimulus package. Example: Landlord pays $4K in land tax per annum and $1K is offered as rebate or waiver to be passed onto a qualifying tenant. Unfortunately the application process is not yet open but we are preparing for this by ensuring we have the supporting documentation. Link here to government information if you’d like to read further – https://www.revenue.nsw.gov.au/news-media-releases/covid-19-tax-relief-measures/covid-19-coronavirus-and-land-tax
The fairest negotiations we have been able to finalise are those where an owner is able to offer a rent abatement which the tenant does not have to pay back together with a deferment of an amount the tenant does have to repay. Example: Rent is $500 per week – landlord offers abatement of $50 per week and tenant defers payment of $50 per week. This would be where there is no land tax rebate available.
We’re finding it difficult to negotiate where a tenant has been earning good money and has been paying a higher than average rent. If they are now receiving JobKeeper of $750 per week they are unable to pay full rent unless they use savings. Those tenants qualify for rent negotiations and are asking for significant reductions in rent which most landlords are not able to provide. Let’s not forget that many owners have been financially affected by Covid too. With these, we are seeking to reach agreement of a combination of abatement and deferment, mostly deferment.
What happens if we can’t reach agreement? Either party can apply to Fair Trading for mediation which is not binding and then if agreement cannot be reached, either party can apply to NCAT (tribunal). In the example above, it would be up to the tenant to apply as they don’t agree or accept what the owners is offering. If the tenancy falls into arrears of more than 14 days, we would likely apply to tribunal and Fair Trading assuming the Fair Trading process would happen first and allow further negotiations to lead to agreement.
We have a case where a tenant has refused to provide documentation in order to demonstrate 25% loss of household income so we have lodged a complaint to Fair Trading. They will require the documentation to be provided in order for them to mediate. If they refuse, the matter will be closed by Fair Trading but we will then have this further refusal to provide as evidence at tribunal. This case is already scheduled for hearing 2nd June as the tenant was already in arrears before the new Regulation commenced.
Parliament Sitting 11th May
The REI (Real Estate Institute) has been working tirelessly to support the interests of landlords and property managers by lobbying government. The NSW Parliament has been called to sit on 11th May and we have been advised by the REI that landlords interests are on the table to be discussed. Principally, the REI’s position is that landlords have been left to cover the cost of rent relief by deferring mortgage payments or simply by using their own savings. We hope they will come to the party with more support for landlords.
If you have any questions or concerns, just let me know. We’re here to help!
02 9555 4886