The Tasmanian government has announced an extension of its financial support schemes for landlords and tenants to mid-2021.
Initially due to end on 31 March 2021, the COVID-19 Rent Relief Fund and Landlord Support Fund will now be extended to 31 June 2021.
According to the state’s Attorney-General and Minister for Building and Construction, Elise Archer, it will give both landlords and tenants more assistance and certainty as they recover from hardship caused by the pandemic.
So far, residential tenants and landlords have drawn on $3.65 million worth of support from the funds.
“We were the first government in Australia to legislate emergency protections for residential tenants and landlords, creating temporary amendments to address the economic impacts of the pandemic on parties to a residential tenancy agreement,” Ms Archer said.
“Following the expiry of the emergency period on 31 January 2021, continued support has been offered through the COVID-19 Rent Relief Fund and COVID-19 Landlord Support Fund as a transitional measure, for eligible tenants and landlords suffering significant financial hardship due to COVID-19.”
To further the recovery of the rental market moving forward, the local government also recently announced the modernisation of land tax by increasing land tax thresholds.
The land value at which land tax becomes payable is doubling from $25,000 to $50,000, and the top threshold will also increase by $50,000, from $350,000 to $400,000.
Ms Archer expects the measure will place further downward pressure on rents while also saving Tasmanians hundreds of dollars a year, benefiting around 70,000 landowners by up to $613 a year.
An additional 4,100 landowners will pay no land tax at all in the year ahead.
“We anticipate these new arrangements will help ease the need for increases in rental prices, with our strong expectation that landlords seek to pass on these savings to tenants next year,” the minister commented.
Apart from financial assistance, the Tasmanian government has also amended the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 to allow for a fairer and more equitable rental market post-pandemic.
Under this legislation, rent arrears payment orders are to be issued by the Residential Tenancy Commissioner on application by a party or parties to a tenancy arrangement.
According to the minister, this will help landlords recoup any remaining rental arrears from the COVID-19 emergency period, while also protecting tenants from eviction.
“The rent arrears payment orders do not override the obligation of a tenant to make regular payments of rent, but instead outline a schedule for repayments in addition to normal rent obligations, and to protect them from eviction while complying with the payment order,” Ms Archer explained.
Landlords will only be able to increase rent in line with the amended Residential Tenancy Act 1997. If an increase is found to be unreasonable, tenants can apply to the Residential Commission for a rent increase review.
The Tasmanian government has not ruled out adding further support schemes down the track as the state continues to recover from the pandemic.
“The Tasmanian government has taken unprecedented action to protect Tasmanian tenants and landlords throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’ve always said that, as we continue to recover, we will consider providing additional support,” Ms Archer concluded.