New COVID relief measures in the ACT will provide financial help to landlords as the territory also looks to better assist renters who are doing it tough.
The announcement follows the news that the territory’s latest lockdown will be extended by at least another two weeks. Residential and commercial landlords and renters in the ACT are getting new temporary assistance from the government.
The government has committed $5.25 million in emergency support funding to help those impacted by COVID-19.
A 12-week moratorium on evictions has been enacted for residential tenants who have found themselves in arrears due to a loss of income or working hours because of the stay-at-home orders.
During the moratorium, landlords are also barred from listing tenants who fall into arrears on tenancy databases or “blacklists”.
Residential landlords will be given a land tax credit of up to $100 per week if they offer rent relief to tenants. The rebate mirrors the support offered by the government during last year’s lockdown.
It’s estimated those measures brought rental relief to roughly 1,000 households impacted by COVID-19.
State Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury has cautioned residential tenants not to interpret the twelve-week moratorium on evictions as a rent holiday.
“Renters should continue to meet their rent obligations if they are able to do so,” Mr Rattenbury said. The measures, he noted, were intended to prevent Canberrans from facing harsh repercussions due to changes in their financial circumstances.
The measures also make provisions for renters who are required to quarantine or self-isolate in response to a public health direction, ensuring they will not be required to leave their rental property during their isolation period.
The government has reintroduced the requirement that commercial landlords engage in good faith negotiations with businesses who are struggling to make payments due to lockdown losses. To assist negotiations, the government is funding professional mediation services to help both parties find a working compromise.
Landlords have also been prevented from taking certain actions against tenants impacted by the pandemic such as terminating their lease without attempting to discuss the terms. This rule has been backdated to 12 August 2021, when the ACT was placed into lockdown.
Commercial landlords who offer rent relief are eligible for a commercial rates credit of up to $5,000. Owner-operators are also eligible for the credit.
Additionally, the ACT has reinstated the role of the COVID-19 Local Business Commissioner to assist business owners seeking information about financial assistance and mental health support.
Looking to set an example of its own, the government has also announced it will waive September rent payments for business and community sector tenants of government-owned properties who have experienced a 30 per cent reduction in turnover.
“The ACT Government is committed to being a model landlord and setting a high standard for how property owners can support their tenants through this difficult time,” Special Minister of State Chris Steel said.
“We encourage commercial landlords to also provide rent relief where it’s needed, with government support now available for those who do,” Mr Steel said.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the commercial relief was structured to encourage landlords and tenants to work together through their pandemic difficulties, and urged them to take advantage of the free mediation on offer.
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Based in Sydney, Juliet Helmke has a broad range of reporting and editorial experience across the areas of business, technology, entertainment and the arts. She was formerly Senior Editor at The New York Observer.