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Friday, November 27, 2020

More support for local businesses during COVID-19

Further rental and rates relief for local tenants and landlords at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $25 million over six months is being added to more than $350 million in ACT Government economic survival measures introduced over the past 10 weeks.

The earlier measures have included payroll tax waivers and deferrals for thousands of businesses, and rebates on the fixed charge for general rates for commercial property owners with an AUV under $2 million – covering 94% of commercial properties in the ACT and providing a $2,622 saving to those property owners in the June quarter. 

As foreshadowed following discussions at the National Cabinet, ACT Cabinet and detailed consultation on implementation with local businesses, the ACT Government is now introducing further measures to support businesses moderately and significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commercial Rates Relief

In a joint statement, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said “We have been clear from the beginning of this pandemic – local businesses and Government will share the financial burden of supporting our economy during this period”.

“Following the ACT Government’s financial assistance to small to medium commercial property owners, the Government has now finalised a framework to provide additional rental and rates relief for tenants and landlords across the Territory at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $25 million over six months.

“The Government will apply rebates to property owners’ commercial general rates bills if they reduce rent for tenants significantly affected by COVID-19, backdated from 1 April 2020 for a period of six months. Those that need the support the most will receive the highest level of support through a tiered category system which encourages landlords to apply for a waiver or rebate on their commercial rates, linked to the amount of rental relief passed on to tenants. The tiered categories also apply to affected owner operated business.

“Any large commercial property owner seeking financial support from the ACT Government has to demonstrate that they have reduced the rent they are charging to businesses significantly affected by COVID-19, backdated from 1 April 2020 for six months.

“Under this scheme, a majority of landlords will potentially pay no commercial rates for six months, provided they are passing through rental relief to their tenants should they need it.”

Commercial Leases Declaration

The ACT Government has implemented the National Cabinet’s Mandatory National Code of Conduct, which requires landlords to negotiate in good faith with tenants financially impacted by COVID-19.

Commercial landlords will have to ensure they are doing everything they can to help businesses survive.

The ACT Government may look to mandate aspects of the National Code through legislation should the proposed approach not drive a strong behavioural response. It is the Government’s intention that the Commercial Leases Declaration will expire on 30 September 2020.

Mediation Services

The Government has developed fact sheets to help landlords understand their requirements under the National Code.

The Local Business Commissioner will act as a Commercial Tenancy Mediator to assist landlords and tenants to negotiate amendments to their leasing agreements.

The Commissioner’s role will be to assist parties to interact respectfully. This is a voluntary, free and confidential service. The Commissioner has already mediated around 40 negotiations with positive outcomes for both parties.

Additional Information

Fact sheet, guidance notes & declaration
Application form for rates rebate

For more information about other support for local businesses through the government’s Economic Survival Package visit: www.covid19.act.gov.au

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