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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Support for renters amid calls for moratorium extension

Additional support will be provided for renters affected by COVID-19, with the ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay today (4 September) signing a declaration to allow for a transitional period once the moratorium on evictions ends on 22 October.  

The transitional period will provide impacted renters with a longer timeframe to pay their rental debts before they could face eviction for arrears accrued before or during the moratorium period. 

An ACT Government spokesperson said it would provide tenants with more time to recover financially and allow them to enter into a payment plan with their landlords. The measure will only apply to tenants who pay their rent after 23 October “as and when it falls due”.

“This is designed to assist to ensure that the tenancy remains sustainable,” the spokesperson said.

“From 23 October, in circumstances where a tenant is unable to meet their rent payments as they fall due during the transitional period, the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal will be required to consider making a payment order … for COVID-19 impacted tenants in rent arrears rather than ordering eviction.”

The Real Estate Institute of the ACT (REIACT) has expressed concern about tenants who are unable to meet payments from 23 October, and CEO Michelle Tynan said many landlords cannot afford to continue reduced or deferred rent indefinitely.

“For the past six months their costs have not reduced, yet government expects the goodwill of landlords to continue to be a viable option,” she said.

The declaration comes after a consortium of five organisations, including Better Renting, Tenants’ Union ACT and ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS), wrote to Mr Ramsay calling for an extension to the six-month moratorium on evictions. 

The letter raised concerns about tenants’ abilities to pay rent once income support payments are reduced from 24 September, and difficulties in obtaining fair rent reductions from landlords.

As part of the declaration, the ACT Government has also extended the land tax rebate scheme for a further three months for landlords who reduce rent for tenants by at least 25%.

Also extended are measures to allow tenants to terminate a fixed-term lease by providing three weeks’ notice and to ban landlords from ‘blacklisting’ tenants for failure to pay rent during the moratorium period. The transitional period will run to 31 January 2021.

The Real Institute of Australia revealed on Wednesday that the ACT is the only jurisdiction in Australia to see an increase in rents during the June quarter.

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