COVID-19 tenancy update

COVID-19 tenancy update

The Queensland Government acted quickly to legislate its COVID-19 response for residential tenancies.

We implemented the National Cabinet agreed 6-month moratorium for rent arrears caused by COVID-19 impacts between 29 March and 29 September 2020.

Changes from 30 September 2020

Some of the temporary protections for Queensland tenants and property owners will change from 30 September.

Queensland is in a strong position thanks to the early actions taken to manage COVID-19 health risks. We will continue to be guided by health advice and directions to determine whether any future actions will be required.

What will change

The six-month eviction moratorium, and measures implemented to support it, will cease to apply after 29 September 2020, including:

  • fixed term agreement extensions for COVID-19 impacted tenants
  • ending agreement provisions that prevent property owners ending tenancies with COVID-19 impacted tenants without grounds and provide additional grounds for parties to end tenancies (owner occupation and sale of premises which require vacant possession)
  • adjusted rent and bond processes that support parties to negotiate arrangements to manage COVID-19 impacts on their tenancies
  • mandatory conciliation of COVID-19 related tenancy disputes through the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA).

What will continue

Other protections will continue to apply until 31 December 2020, including:

  • provisions allowing tenants experiencing domestic and family violence to end their tenancies quickly
  • protections for tenants against being listed in a tenancy database for rent arrears caused by COVID-19 impacts
  • limits on reletting costs for eligible tenants who end their fixed term tenancies early
  • short term tenancy statement extensions for moveable dwellings
  • entry restrictions and requirements to support COVID-19 social distancing measures
  • relaxed repair and maintenance obligations.

Working together

Tenants and property owners should continue negotiating adjustments to manage any COVID-19 impacts on their residential tenancy arrangements.

The Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) free dispute resolution service is available to help parties reach agreement and resolve issues, including about rent and ending agreements.

Help and advice

If you need help with your tenancy, talk to the RTA:

Our Housing Service Centres can provide housing assistance:

Support for mental health

Frequently asked questions

  • Up to and including 29 September 2020, a property owner or property manager can issue a notice to leave for sale of premises or owner occupation. The process will continue until the end of the required 2 months’ notice.

    From 30 September 2020, a property owner or property manager cannot issue a notice to leave for those additional grounds.

    A tenant can issue a notice ending tenancy for domestic violence up to and including 31 December 2020.

    Example:

    A property owner needs vacant possession due to sale of the rental property. They issued a Notice to leave on the grounds of sale of property to the tenants on 10 September 2020, the tenants would be required to vacate the property at the end of the 2 months’ notice on 10 November (plus clear days for delivery of notice).

  • Yes. Evidence may be required to substantiate the reasons for ending a tenancy and penalties may apply for misusing or making a false statement via a Notice to Leave for owner occupation or premises being sold.

    Example:

    Owner issues a notice to leave to their tenant because the premises are being sold and requires vacant possession. The tenant vacates the rental property on the handover day after the required 2 months’ notice on 1 October 2020. Two weeks later, the tenant finds the property owner has rented the property to another person under a new agreement.

    The tenant makes a formal complaint to the RTA regarding the potential misuse of the provision. The RTA investigates and confirms that the owner misused the notice to leave for premises being sold ground and the owner is penalised for the offence.

  • This will depend on when the tenancy variation agreement expires. If the variation agreement expires after 29 September 2020, it is still valid. Tenants and property owners should both keep a copy of their signed variation agreement.

    When a tenancy variation agreement expires, obligations return to the same terms as outlined in the original tenancy agreement. This might include reverting back to paying the rent amount as set out in the original tenancy agreement or an obligation to start repaying unpaid rent.

    To avoid confusion, parties are encouraged to confirm in writing what was agreed and what is required at the end of the tenancy variation agreement.

    Example:

    A tenant fell into rent arrears in mid-August 2020 due to job loss linked to COVID-19. The property owner started the show cause process and undertook mandatory conciliation with the tenant through the RTA.

    The parties entered into a tenancy variation agreement on 20 September 2020 that allowed the tenant to pay reduced rent until 15 November. After this date the rent reverts back to the original amount and they are required to repay an additional  $50 per week until the end of their fixed term on 14 January 2021.

    Because the tenancy variation agreement was entered into before 29 September, the tenancy variation agreement will continue to apply until its end date and the tenant cannot be evicted for rent arrears during this time, unless they don’t comply with the terms of the tenancy variation agreement.

  • The property owner or manager and the tenant should discuss any issues impacting their ability to meet the terms of the tenancy variation agreement early on and try to work out a solution, considering the circumstances of both parties.

    All parties are encouraged to be reasonable in their dealings.

    From 30 September 2020, action can be taken by a property owner or manager to end a COVID-19 impacted tenancy agreement if there is a breach relating to rent that goes unremedied.

    Example:

    A tenant lost employment and fell into rent arrears. The property owner followed the show cause process and applied for conciliation with the RTA when the tenant was able to demonstrate that they were COVID-19 impacted.

    Through conciliation, the parties were able to reach agreement and enter a tenancy variation agreement that offered a temporary rent reduction. The tenant complied with the rent variation initially, but then fell further behind in arrears.

    From 30 September 2020, the property owner may proceed to have the tenant’s tenancy terminated as they failed to meet the terms of the tenancy variation agreement.

  • This will depend on when the tenancy variation agreement expires. If the variation agreement expires after 29 September 2020, it is still valid.

    The property owner or manager and the tenant should discuss any changes in their circumstances early on and try to work out a solution, considering the circumstances of both parties.

    All parties are encouraged to be reasonable in their dealings.

    Example:

    A tenant entered into a written tenancy variation agreement with the property owner on 1 July 2020 to defer their rent payments by $100 a week and start repaying the original rent amount plus the deferred rent on 1 October 2020, until their fixed term tenancy ends on 5 January 2021.

    The tenant complies with the terms of this tenancy variation agreement. The property owner’s circumstances change in October; they lose their job and need to move back into the rental property. As the tenant is complying with the terms of the tenancy variation agreement and is not in breach of their tenancy obligations, the property owner cannot end the agreement for breach of agreement relating to unpaid rent.

    As the owner occupation ground to end a tenancy ended on 29 September 2020, the options to end the tenancy agreement for the property owner would be to either negotiate with the tenant for an earlier end date, or apply to QCAT to end the tenancy on the grounds of the property owner’s excessive hardship.

    QCAT will consider the terms of the tenancy variation agreement in place, along with other relevant matters, when making the order.

  • As part of the COVID-19 response, new processes including ‘show cause’ and mandatory conciliation through the RTA were introduced to support the evictions moratorium for rent arrears.

    The property owner/manager and the tenant should discuss any rent arrears and try to work out a solution, such as a repayment schedule, taking into account the circumstances of both parties and how any agreement would impact them.

    If any agreement is not met a Notice to remedy breach (Form 11) can be issued, allowing tenants reasonable time to repay any arrears.

    Property owners and managers are encouraged to be reasonable and consider their tenant’s circumstances and ability to repay arrears.

    If the tenant does not repay the arrears as per the Notice to remedy breach, property owners can consider issuing a Notice to leave (Form 12).

    If the tenant does not vacate as per the Notice to Leave, an application may be made to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to seek a Warrant of Possession. QCAT will consider any health directives when making their order.

    Example:

    A tenant has been in rent arrears since 1 September 2020, however, the property owner did not start a formal show cause process before 29 September 2020.

    From 30 September 2020, the property owner may decide to issue a Notice to Remedy Breach (Form 12) to the tenant, providing them with 7 days’ notice to remedy the rent arrears breach. The tenant may apply to the RTA for conciliation to help negotiate an outcome, although this is no longer mandatory.

    If the issue is not resolved, the property owner could commence the usual process to issue the tenant with a Notice to Leave and apply to QCAT for an order if tenant doesn’t vacate the premises.

  • Unpaid rent from 30 September 2020 will revert to the pre-COVID-19 processes.

    The property owner/manager and the tenant should discuss any rent arrears and try to work out a solution, such as a repayment schedule, taking into account the circumstances of both parties and how any agreement would impact them.

    If this does not work, after rent has remained unpaid for at least seven days, tenants can be given a Notice to remedy breach (Form 11). Tenants should be given at least seven days to remedy the breach such as to repay the arrears or enter into a repayment schedule over a reasonable amount of time.

    If the tenant does not repay the arrears, property owners can consider issuing a Notice to leave.

    For assistance reaching an agreement, the parties may use the RTA’s free conciliation service to help come to a workable agreement.

  • Requests for conciliation for COVID-19 matters lodged prior to 29 September 2020 will be prioritised and actioned accordingly. The process will continue under the regulations that applied at the time of the tenancy dispute.

  • We have new eligibility criteria for bond loans and bond loan plus. Visit the Bond loans and rental grants page for more information or call your local Housing Service Centre on 13 QGOV (13 74 68).

  • Tenants needing support to access new private rental accommodation can use our RentConnect service.

  • A freeze on evictions for unpaid rent caused by COVID-19 impacts was in place until 29 September 2020.

    From 30 September 2020, action can be taken by a property owner or manager to end a COVID-19 impacted tenancy agreement if there is a breach relating to rent that goes unremedied.

    Example:

    A tenant’s relationship broke down and their partner moved out. One tenant decided to remain in the tenancy alone and all parties agreed to alter the lease accordingly. The remaining tenant began to have difficulty paying the rent in September.

    The property owner held off on the show cause process and worked closely with the remaining tenant to manage the situation. The property owner can decide to follow the standard breach process for rent arrears at any stage as the remaining tenant is not COVID-19 impacted.

  • Until 31 December 2020, tenants may refuse entry to their home for non-essential reasons (including routine inspections), particularly if a member of the household has a higher risk profile if exposed to COVID-19.

    If a tenant refuses physical entry for an inspection, they must allow the inspection to be carried out in other ways such as virtually, by video conference, or through photographs or video provided to the property manager. Parties could also negotiate for entry to occur by appointment if social distancing and hygiene protocols are maintained. Refer to Queensland Health for the current public health directions.

    Property owners and managers can enter the property in emergencies to protect the property or inclusions from imminent or further damage or conduct essential repairs. Entry to comply with existing regulatory obligations that ensure tenant safety in the rental property, such as maintaining smoke alarms, must be permitted.

    It is important that all parties communicate openly and respectfully and try to establish an agreed way to work during this difficult time. Any agreement should be recorded in writing. All parties should advise each other early of any health, safety or financial impacts if the inspection does or doesn’t occur.

    Example 1:

    A tenant receives an entry notice for a routine inspection scheduled for 20 October 2020.

    As the tenant is 74 years old and is self-isolating to minimise their chance of contracting COVID-19, they refuse the routine inspection, but agrees to take photos of the property and send them electronically to the property manager.

    The property manager is satisfied that the photos provide sufficient evidence that the property is in good condition.

    Example two:

    A tenant receives an entry notice for smoke alarm maintenance.

    The tenant cannot refuse this inspection.

  • Eligible tenants who need to end their fixed term tenancy early because of COVID-19 impacts will have their break lease costs capped at the equivalent of one weeks rent after giving the required notice period to end the tenancy.

    To be eligible for capped break lease costs the household must have lost 75% or more of their income and have less than $5000 in savings. Tenants may be asked to provide information to support that they meet these eligibility requirements.

    If the tenant is having difficulty negotiating with the property owner or agent (for example, if they are refusing to discuss or cannot be contacted), contact the RTA to arrange conciliation.

    Example:

    Tenant 1 is a part-time student who lives in a share house with two other part time students (Tenant 2 and Tenant 3). Each tenant pays $150 rent. There is 4 months remaining on their fixed term lease. All three tenants have lost their casual jobs due to business closures following public health orders. Tenants 2 and 3 have returned to their families who live interstate.

    Tenant 1 must now pay the full rent of $450 per week. Tenant 1 is not eligible for government support payments and has lost their previous income of $600 per week.

    Tenant 1 wants to break the lease to live with an extended family member. Tenant 1’s income has reduced by over 75% and they have savings of under $5000.

    Tenants 1, 2 and 3 must give the property owner or manager 2 weeks’ notice of their intention to leave and are eligible for the break lease fee cap at the equivalent of 1 week’s rent.

  • Property owners are required to offer COVID-19 impacted tenants an extension of their fixed term agreement to at least 30 September 2020, unless the tenant requests a shorter term.

    You should talk to the property manager as soon as possible to work out an arrangement.

    If you need help with your tenancy, talk to the RTA.

  • Try to minimise the potential for tension or stress by communicating openly, understanding each other’s circumstance and working together to agree a way forward that works for both of you.

    If the tenants are likely to have difficulty meeting rent payments due to the impacts of COVID-19:

    • Start talking to them early about their options and keep discussions going, as circumstances can change quickly
    • Be reasonable when considering requests for rent adjustments. It is always better to keep good, long-term tenants than find new tenants
    • Consider the situation the tenant will be in when the COVID-19 pandemic subsides
    • Agree to the terms of any rent adjustments and be clear about expectations. For example, how much the rent can be reduced by and for what period.

    Any agreement about changes to the tenancy arrangement should be recorded in writing, including rent adjustments. An RTA COVID-19 tenancy variation form for general tenancies (18d and 18f) or rooming accommodation (18e) can be used to document the new agreement properly.

    Tenants and property owners should continue negotiating adjustments to manage any COVID-19 impacts on residential tenancy arrangements. The RTA’s free dispute resolution service is available to help parties reach agreement and resolve issues, including about rent and ending agreements.

    If you need help with your tenancy, talk to the RTA.

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Last updated:
13 October 2020