The moratorium on evictions for Canberra renters impacted by COVID-19 has been extended by three months to 22 October and includes evictions for rental arrears, under new measures to support tenants impacted by the pandemic announced yesterday (22 July) by the ACT Government.
Under the changes, renters in Canberra will also be able to terminate their fixed-term tenancy agreements early, and without penalty, provided they give three weeks’ notice to the landlord and evidence they have been impacted by COVID-19. Rental arrears will still be owed as a debt to the landlord.
Executive director of Better Renting, Joel Dignam, welcomed the announcement, labelling it “good news” for residential tenants.
He said Better Renting supports measures to make it easier for renters to end an unaffordable tenancy, however expressed concerns many renters would have nowhere else to go.
He also called on the ACT to implement measures that would see binding rent reductions for landlords and tenants unable to reach an agreement through the free mediation service provided by the Conflict Resolution Service (CRS).
“We’re still in the thick of an economic crisis and it’s important that nobody is at risk of eviction for rental arrears,” Mr Dignam said.
“We still await a mechanism for binding rent reductions. In Queensland and Victoria, this has enabled renters to secure affordable rents even if their landlord refused to negotiate.
“But in the ACT, renters in this situation have nowhere to turn.”
ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said the new measures would mean tenants would not be charged a fee for breaking the lease or made to pay any additional compensation.
“This new measure will provide additional support to COVID-19 impacted tenants by removing the need for them to make an application to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) to terminate their tenancy due to hardship,” he said.
Mr Ramsay said the ACT Government is planning to make a further announcement about support for both tenants and landlords prior to the beginning of the caretaker period for the Territory election in October.