If you rent a home and are financially affected by coronavirus

This is a guide for people renting in NSW who have been financially affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).

1

If you can’t pay your rent

A temporary 60-day halt on evictions for tenants behind in their rent due to coronavirus (COVID-19) was introduced by the NSW Government on 15 April 2020.

You’re eligible if your household income has been reduced by 25% or more because you, or a rent paying member of your household, have:

  • lost your income or job due to coronavirus business closures or stand-downs, or
  • had to stop working or reduce work hours due to coronavirus illness or carer responsibilities 

Requesting a rent reduction, deferral or waiver

During the temporary halt, landlords and tenants should try to negotiate a rent reduction, deferral or waiver for a set period of time. 

Any request for a rent reduction will need to include: 

  • your original household income
  • proof of your change in income due to coronavirus, such as a job termination or stand down letter 
  • the amount of rent you can afford to pay
  • any income support payments you receive

NSW Fair Trading has a template letter you can use when contacting your landlord to request a rent reduction. 

If you reach an agreement with your landlord, you should put in writing any decisions made about:

  • whether the rent will be waived, deferred or reduced
  • the amount of rent payable
  • the date the agreement will be reviewed
  • a repayment plan, if applicable

You can still be evicted during the temporary 60-day halt if you break the other conditions of your lease.

If you can’t come to an arrangement with your landlord

A free dispute resolution process is available through NSW Fair Trading for those who have tried to negotiate with their landlord and can’t come to an agreement.

After the temporary 60-day halt on evictions

The 60-day temporary halt on evictions is due to end 15 June 2020.

After that, there will be a 6-month restriction on evictions for tenants behind in their rent who’ve been affected by coronavirus, which is due to end 15 October 2020.

During this time, a landlord can only apply for eviction if they show:

  • they’ve tried to negotiate a rent reduction in good faith
  • they went through the dispute resolution process with NSW Fair Trading
  • it’s fair and reasonable in that specific case

If you live in shared housing

The temporary 60-day halt on evictions applies to shared households who meet the eligibility requirements.

This includes any tenant who is a:

  • head-tenant - if you’ve signed a lease for the whole property, you’re responsible for paying the rent
  • co-tenant - if there’s more than one tenant that’s signed a lease, you’re jointly responsible for paying rent
  • sub-tenant - if you’ve signed an agreement with the head-tenant to pay them the rent

Even if you pay your share of the rent, it's important to check if your housemates are paying their share.

If rent becomes overdue, a landlord can start legal proceedings against any co-tenant for the total rent due, not just their portion of it.

    If you live in social or community housing

    Tenants of social housing aren’t covered by the new temporary 60-day halt on evictions. Social housing providers have their own processes when dealing with rental arrears.

    It’s important that you tell the organisation that provides your housing straight away if you’re having trouble paying rent:

    • for social housing tenants, contact your client service officer (CSO)
    • for community housing tenants, contact your community housing provider
    2

    Ending a lease and notice periods

    If you or the landlord want to end a lease, the amount of notice required will depend on the type of lease and the reason for ending it.

    Ending a lease is not the same as an eviction. It’s the termination of the rental agreement and gives notice to the tenant to move out of the property by a certain date. 

    If you end the lease

    You may have to pay some costs if you want to end your fixed term lease early, unless you:

    • are experiencing financial hardship - this requires an application to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT)
    • have accepted an offer of social housing
    • need to move into a nursing or care home

    If you’ve been impacted by coronavirus and want to terminate your lease early, you can apply to the NCAT to end the lease if:

    • your landlord has refused to participate in a formal rent negotiation process through NSW Fair Trading, or
    • you and your landlord have attempted a formal rent negotiation process but were unable to come to an agreement

    In these circumstances, the NCAT may cap the cost of breaking your lease to a maximum of 2 weeks rent.

    If your landlord ends the lease

    The amount of notice period your landlord needs to give may have temporarily changed, as a result of the new measures introduced by the NSW Government on 15 April 2020.

    While these temporary measures are in effect, your landlord will need to give at least 90 days’ notice if they wish to terminate a tenancy that's:

    • fixed term (for a specific period of time) at the end of that term
    • periodic (month by month)
    • in breach of the tenancy agreement
    • lasted for 20 years or more

    The extended notice won't apply if you:

    • are behind in your rent and not affected by coronavirus
    • have caused serious damage to your own or other residents' property
    • are using the property for illegal purposes
    • have threatened or abused other residents or the landlord

    If you owe money in rent or bills, the landlord can apply to keep part or all of your rental bond to cover the amount you owe.

    In some circumstances, your landlord may be able to end a fixed-term lease early. This could be because:

    • they’re experiencing financial hardship - this requires an application to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), no minimum notice period is needed
    • they’re selling the property, 30 days’ notice period is needed

    If you don't move out by the end of the notice period, the landlord can apply to the NCAT to have you evicted. Learn more under Section 3: If you’re evicted from your home.

    Ending a lease due to family or domestic violence

    You can end a lease immediately if you or your children are at risk of, or experiencing, family or domestic violence. This includes if you or your children: 

    • have experienced a domestic violence offence during the tenancy 
    • are protected by any type of domestic violence order (DVO) 
    • are protected by a family law injunction 
    • have been declared by a doctor to have experienced domestic violence

    You need to give the landlord or managing agent a domestic violence termination notice indicating the date you want to end the lease. You can end the lease the same day you give notice or at a later date.

    The notice must also include one piece of supporting evidence, such as a:

    • certificate of conviction for the domestic violence offence
    • family law injunction
    • provisional, interim or final domestic violence order (DVO)
    • declaration made by a medical practitioner in the prescribed form

    You do not have to give the notice to your landlord in person.

    If you live in a boarding house

    The temporary 60-day halt on evictions applies to those living in registered boarding houses who meet the eligibility requirements.

    If you want to move out and there is no notice period listed in your lease or agreement, you can give reasonable notice instead. For example, if you pay rent weekly, it’s reasonable to give 7 days’ notice.

    3

    If you’re evicted from your home

    If you don’t move out of the property by the date your lease ends, your landlord can apply for a termination order at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) to have you evicted.

    If you’re still in the property by the date in the termination order, a sheriff’s officer can legally remove you from the property under a warrant for possession issued by the NCAT or a court. 

    It’s illegal for a landlord to lock you out of you home without following this process.

    If you're overseas and currently unable to return to Australia

    If your lease has been terminated and your possessions are still in the property, the landlord can’t dispose of them without giving you notice.

    Talk to your landlord about your options. You may be able to arrange to have your things stored or collected for you until you can return. 

    4

    Being listed on a tenancy database

    Tenancy databases keep information relating to problems that real estate agents or landlords experienced during a tenant’s stay at a property. 

    Being listed on a tenancy database is commonly known as being blacklisted.

    It can affect your ability to find a rental property in the future, as real estate agents use tenancy databases to screen potential tenants.

    There are strict rules around when a tenant can and can’t be listed on a tenancy database.

    Tenants can’t be listed if they: 

    • fall behind with the rent
    • are given a termination notice, or
    • ended their tenancy in circumstances of domestic violence

    A tenant can be listed on a database for 3 years if: 

    • they've left the property and owe money for a breach of the lease that is more than the rental bond, or
    • the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) has made an order terminating the lease because of something the tenant has done wrong

    You’ll be notified in advance if you’re going to be listed on a tenancy database and will have a chance to dispute the listing.

    5

    Get financial help

    Rent Choice Assist COVID-19

    Rent Choice Assist COVID-19 offers support to low income households who’ve had a significant loss of income due to coronavirus by:

    • assisting them to stay in their home while recovering from job loss, reduction in hours or needing to self-isolate or care for family members due to coronavirus
    • paying a proportion of the rent for up to 12 months, and
    • where required, helping to find a safe and affordable place to rent

    It is currently available from April to July 2020.

    You’re eligible for this payment if:

    • you’re 18 years or older
    • you’re an Australian citizen or permanent resident
    • you’ve been renting over the last 12 months
    • you’ve recently been employed and had your household income reduced due to coronavirus
    • your current household income is within the low-income limit
    • you don’t have any assets that can be used to solve your housing needs, and
    • you’re willing to get financially back on track to be able to afford paying your rent within 6 to 12 months

    Rent Assistance

    You may be eligible for Rent Assistance if you get one of the following payments or benefits:

    • JobSeeker
    • Youth Allowance
    • Austudy
    • ABSTUDY
    • Parenting Payment
    • Special Benefit, or
    • more than the base rate of Family Tax Benefit

    You will also need to be paying either:

    • rent
    • fees in a retirement village
    • lodging
    • board and lodging, or
    • site or mooring fees if your main home is a caravan, relocatable home or boat

    The amount of Rent Assistance will depend on how much rent you pay. 

    You don’t need to apply, your eligibility will be automatically assessed when you claim one of the relevant payments.

    Other moving costs

    You may be able to get help with the cost of your rent, bond and moving through various support programs, including: 

    • Rent Choice
    • Tenancy Assistance
    • Rentstart Bond Loan
    • Advance Rent
    • Rentstart Move

    Temporary financial support

    There is a range of temporary financial support for people affected by coronavirus. The type of support you can get will depend on your situation, and may include:

    • Coronavirus Supplement
    • Economic Support Payment
    • Crisis Payment

    If you’re affected by coronavirus, you can also:

    • get early access to your superannuation
    • reduce your superannuation minimum drawdown rates

    Utility bills

    There are a number of rebates available to eligible customers that can help reduce energy bills, including electricity and gas rebates for:

    • retail customers (if you get your bill from an energy retailer)
    • on supply customers (if you get your energy bill or invoice from a strata manager or from a community or village operator)

    Some of these rebates available include the:

    • Low Income Household Rebate
    • Family Energy Rebate
    • Seniors Energy Rebate
    • Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) Scheme
    6

    Get support and advice

    It's important to reach out and get help if you've been affected by coronavirus. 

    In addition to financial and legal support services, there are also many mental health resources available to help you manage and maintain your mental wellbeing. 

    Financial counselling

    Legal and tenancy services

    Mental health support

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