We were the first government in Australia to legislate protections for residential property owners and tenants through the COVID-19 Disease Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020. These amendments were created to address the economic impacts of the pandemic on parties to a residential tenancy agreement.
As an additional measure of support for residential landlords, we also announced the establishment of a COVID-19 Landlord Support Fund (the Fund), for private residential tenancy landlords experiencing financial hardship due to tenants being behind in rent, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. To the best of my knowledge no other jurisdiction has offered such relief for private property owners.
As of Friday, 20 November 2020, there have been 290 applications to the COVID-19 Landlord Support Fund and to date, 265 applicants have been paid a total of $348,820.
The combined total amount paid out of both funds (COVID-19 Rent Relief Fund and COVID-19 Landlord Support Fund) is $1.73 million. Both funds have been very successful in assisting Tasmanians impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in staying safe in through homes during the emergency period.
On 24 November 2020, our Government announced an extension of the emergency protections for residential tenants, as well as a new round of both the COVID-19 Rent Relief Fund and COVID-19 Landlord Support Fund meaning that both landlords and tenants can apply again for additional assistance.
The second round of the COVID-19 Landlord Support Fund will open between 1 December 2020 and 31 January 2021 and landlords who have previously accessed the COVID-19 Landlord Support Fund can apply again for a payment of up to $2000 or 4 weeks rent if they have a tenant in rent arrears from 1 December 2020.
Our Government recognises that circumstances associated with the pandemic can change very quickly as seen in other states, however it is not our intention to extend the protections beyond 31 January 2021 unless circumstances change.
Our Government has repeatedly stated that this is not a rent holiday for tenants, and they should continue to pay rent if they are able. It is disappointing to hear that some may be taking advantage of the emergency protections and not paying rent, but I do not believe this reflects the large majority of tenants who are genuinely suffering COVID-19 hardship.
I remind parties that they can apply to the Residential Tenancy Commissioner to have an Order to break a fixed term lease agreement in the case of severe COVID-19 related hardship.
It is important to note that a landlord is still within their right to vacate a tenant from their property under some circumstances, including:
Our Government will continue to closely monitor the situation for Tasmanian tenants and landlords, and importantly, provide the necessary support.