The Marshall government has announced that it is extending emergency relief for residential and commercial tenants struggling to pay their rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic for another six months.
The South Australian government will extend the relief provisions, which restrict rent increases and the ability for landlords to terminate agreements until the end of March 2021.
Legislation passed Parliament on Wednesday, with Attorney-General Vickie Chapman explaining that the changing situation interstate has meant the extension of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act is a necessity.
“The legislation is another component of the state government’s strong plan to deal with both the health and economic impacts of COVID-19,” the Attorney-General said.
“Some provisions were set to expire by the end of September, when it’s clear the impacts of the coronavirus are still being felt by families, businesses and the broader community.”
However, under the new bill, the government will narrow the focus to ensure it only helps tenants in financial hardship due to the health pandemic.
The bill will extend provisions until 28 March 2021, or 28 days after the COVID-19 Emergency Direction expires, whichever comes first.
Provisions to continue under the proposed bill include:
- Those involving commercial leases;
- Restrictions on rent increases, as well as breaches and terminations of tenancy agreements involving financial hardship due to the coronavirus for residential tenancies, residential parks and supported residential facilities;
- The use of “virtual” visits by the community visitor;
- Alternative methods of signing and witnessing documents.
The South Australian government has also announced that it will extend and increase land tax relief schemes for landlords, providing a 50 per cent reduction on their tax liabilities.
Treasurer Rob Lucas said the government wanted to ensure as many local landlords as possible were able to be supported, with more than 1,500 applications for relief to date.
“This initiative — part of our $2 billion in economic stimulus — is an important support for local businesses and residential tenants who have suffered a significant downturn in trade and income as a result of COVID-19,” Mr Lucas said.
“By helping landlords, we support their tenants — and, in turn, ensure we sustain as many local jobs as possible throughout the greatest economic challenge of our time.”
Meanwhile, protections for commercial SME tenants impacted by COVID-19 restrictions will be extended by a further three months under the Marshall government changes, which will continue to back business and support local jobs.
Existing regulations under the COVID-19 Emergency Response Amendment Act — which covered the six months from 30 March — were due to expire on 30 September this year. They will be extended to 3 January 2021.
“These provisions continue to implement key elements of the National Mandatory Code of Conduct and seek to strike a necessary balance between the interests of both landlords and their commercial SME tenants affected by COVID-19, to ensure they have every opportunity to continue to trade,” Mr Lucas said.
“They ensure no affected commercial SME tenant can be evicted for non-payment of rent or outgoings, or for reducing their hours of business during this period.”
While landlords and tenants are required to negotiate leasing arrangements in good faith, where there is a dispute, a party may seek mediation by the Small Business Commissioner. If this fails, the matter may then proceed to the Magistrates Court for a determination.