Renters 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

The restriction on eviction of tenants affected by coronavirus who are behind in their rent has been extended until 26 March 2021.

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:

  • either lost or had a reduction in income or employment due to coronavirus, or
  • had to stop working or reduce work hours due to coronavirus illness or carer responsibilities 

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 rent negotiation process with NSW Fair Trading
  • it’s fair and reasonable in that specific case

The restriction on evictions does not apply if:

  • the landlord is experiencing financial hardship 
  • you're behind in your rent and not affected by coronavirus
  • you've caused serious damage to the property or injury to the landlord, agent or neighbour
  • the property is being used for illegal purposes
  • you've threatened or abused the landlord, agent or another person
  • the landlord is selling the property

Requesting a rent reduction, deferral or waiver

A request for a rent reduction, deferral or waiver should made directly to your landlord or agent.

It's important to know what you're agreeing to:

  • a waiver means the agreed amount of rent won't need to be paid back
  • a deferral means you will need to pay back the agreed amount of rent in the future

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

You can download a template letter from NSW Fair Trading to 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 and frequency of rent payable
  • how long the agreement is for
  • the date the agreement will be reviewed
  • what happens when the agreement ends
  • a repayment plan, if rent is being deferred

You can still be evicted during this time if you break the other conditions of your lease.

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

If you cannot come to an agreement with your landlord, you can take part in the NSW Fair Trading rent negotiation process.

To do this, you'll need to:

If you live in shared housing

The restriction on evictions applies to tenants in shared households who meet the eligibility requirements.

This includes any tenant who is a:

  • tenant named on the lease
  • sub-tenant under a written residential tenancy agreement with the main tenant named on the lease

If you live in a boarding house

If you're behind in your boarding house fees, you can try to negotiate with the proprietor:

  • for a reduction of fees
  • if any fees owing will be waived (never paid back) or deferred (paid back in the future)
  • on a repayment plan for any fees owed

If you cannot reach an agreement, you can get help to resolve your dispute at NSW Fair Trading.

    If you live in social or community housing

    Tenants of social housing aren’t covered by the restriction 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

    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. 

    Notice periods

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

    While the restriction on evictions is in effect, your landlord will need to give 90 days’ notice when ending:

    • a fixed term lease (for a specific period of time) at the end of the term
    • a periodic lease (month by month)
    • a tenancy because of a breach of the tenancy agreement (other than for non-payment of rent)

    The extended 90 days' notice won't apply if:

    • the landlord is experiencing financial hardship
    • you're behind in the rent and not affected by coronavirus
    • you've caused serious damage to the property or injury to the landlord, agent or neighbour
    • the property is being used for illegal purposes
    • you've threatened or abused the landlord, agent or another person
    • the landlord is selling the property

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

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

    Ending a lease early

    You can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal to end a fixed term lease early if you're experiencing financial hardship.

      You may have to pay a fee to end your fixed term lease early, unless:

      • you've accepted an offer of social housing
      • you need to move into a nursing home or aged care facility
      • you were not told by the landlord before signing the lease that they were selling the property during the fixed term
      • you or your children are experiencing family or domestic violence
      • the property becomes listed on the loose fill asbestos insulation register during your tenancy, or it was already listed before your tenancy started and you weren't told 

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

      • your landlord refuses to participate in a formal rent negotiation process through NSW Fair Trading, or
      • you and your landlord cannot agree on a rent reduction or repayment arrangement that does not cause you financial hardship

      In these circumstances, the tribunal can limit the fee for breaking the lease early to a maximum of 2 weeks rent.

      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
      • are protected by a family law injunction 
      • have been declared by a health practitioner or other competent person (such as a social worker or counsellor) to have experienced domestic violence

      You need to give the landlord or agent a domestic violence termination notice indicating the date you want to end the lease. You can download a template letter to help write a domestic violence termination notice at NSW Fair Trading.

      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
      • declaration made by a competent person - this includes registered health practitioners, social workers and counsellors

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

      If you live in a boarding house

      The termination notice period for boarding house residents affected by coronavirus who are behind in the fees has been extended to:

      • 60 days' notice (if no agreement could be reached because the proprietor has taken part in a formal negotiation process in good faith, but the resident has not), or
      • 6 months' notice

      This extension will be in effect until 26 March 2021.

      You're eligible for the extension if your income has been reduced by 25% or more because you've:

      • either lost or had a reduction in income or employment due to coronavirus, or
      • had to stop working or reduce work hours due to coronavirus illness or carer responsibilities

      You'll need to provide documents showing your changed circumstances, such as:

      • proof of temporary or permanent job loss
      • bank statements or payslips showing your previous and current income
      • proof of any income support payments you receive or have applied for

      The termination notice period for other reasons is now 90 days except where the resident:

      • is behind in their fees and is not affected by coronavirus
      • has intentionally or recklessly caused or allowed serious damage to the premises or other residents' property
      • is using the premises for illegal purposes
      • has threatened or abused other residents or the proprietor
      3

      If you’re evicted from your home

      If you don’t move out of the property by the date your lease ends, the landlord can apply for a termination order at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal 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 tribunal or a court. 

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

      4

      If you're 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 cannot be listed on a tenancy database.

      Tenants cannot be listed if they: 

      • fall behind with the rent
      • are given a termination notice
      • are not looking after the property properly, or
      • ended their tenancy because of domestic violence

      A tenant can be listed on a database for up to 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 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. You can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal if you want to dispute the listing.

      5

      Get financial help

      Coronavirus has affected many people across Australia. If you're worried about your finances, there are ways to find support. 

      This includes:

      • government payments
      • help with moving costs and rent
      • practical ways to manage your payments and debt
      1

      Government payments

      There is temporary financial support for people affected by coronavirus. Depending on your situation, you may be able to get:

      There are also payments to help with the cost of moving, rent and bond.

      Rent Assistance

      You may be eligible for Rent Assistance if you get certain income support payments and also pay:

      • rent
      • fees in a retirement village
      • lodging
      • board and lodging
      • 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. You'll be automatically assessed when you claim one of the relevant payments.

      Rent Choice

      Rent Choice helps eligible tenants find and pay for rental accommodation for up to 3 years:

      • Rent Choice Assist - for low income households in certain regions that have had a financial shock, such as job loss or illness
      • Rent Choice Start Safely – for those who’ve experienced family or domestic violence
      • Rent Choice Youth – for those aged 16 to 24 who are homeless, or are at risk of becoming homeless
      • Rent Choice Veterans – for former members of the Australian Defence Force who are homeless, or are at risk of becoming homeless

      Rentstart

      Rentstart helps low income earners who are eligible for, or already living in, social housing.

      It aims to make it easier when moving out of social housing into a new home in the private rental market. Support from Rentstart includes:

      • Rentstart Bond Loan - an interest-free loan to help pay the bond
      • Advance Rent – a grant to those who have a Rentstart Bond Loan and are having trouble with the costs of their new tenancy. It also covers a deposit for those moving into caravan parks, registered boarding houses and hostels where a bond isn’t required
      • Rentstart Move – a loan for tenants leaving public housing to help with the cost of moving
      • Tenancy Assistance - help to pay any outstanding rent or water bills
      • Temporary Accommodation – provides short-term accommodation for those who are homeless
      2

      Managing payments and debts

      There is support available from your bank, energy company and across government to help you manage your ongoing payments and debt.

      Energy costs

      If you're having difficulty paying your utility bills, contact your energy retailer directly about setting up a hardship arrangement or payment plan. 

      There are many 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 community/village operator)

      No interest loans

      Good Shepherd is working with the Federal Government and NAB to offer 24-month interest free household relief loans for those affected by coronavirus.

      Loans of up to $3000 to pay for rent, bond and utilities, with no interest, charges or fees.

      You can call the free COVID hardship support hotline on 1300 121 130 or apply online.

      Financial Information Service

      This is a free, confidential service where you can talk to a Financial Information Service Officer from the Federal Government about:

      • financial products including superannuation and investments
      • financial planners and how to use their advice 
      • the benefit of reducing your debt
      • how to increase your retirement income

      Financial support

      • guidance to help with paying council rates, bills and fines at Moneysmart   
      • claim expenses if you're working from home during the coronavirus at the Australian Tax Office 
      • learn how to plan and make a budget at Moneysmart

      Financial counselling

      6

      Get support and advice

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

      As well as legal and tenancy support services, there are also many mental health resources available to help you manage and maintain your mental and emotional wellbeing. 

      Legal and tenancy support

      Mental health support

      If the impact of coronavirus is placing pressure on your income, relationships or mental health, talk to your doctor or trusted health professional to discuss your situation.

      There are also a wide range of support services that can help.

      For yourself
      For your family

      You can also get in touch with a social worker through Services Australia.

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