- A six-month moratorium on residential evictions now law
- Affected tenants and landlords urged to negotiate if a tenant is in financial hardship
- Conciliation of tenancy disputes to be mandatory
A six-month moratorium on residential tenancy evictions will now become law, with legislation introduced by the McGowan Government passing the Western Australian Parliament.
The new laws implement the decision of the National Cabinet and are designed to prevent tenants from having to move out or being made homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, tenants can still have their leases terminated and be evicted if they are causing damage to the property, posing a threat to the landlord or neighbours, not paying rent, refusing to make a rent payment agreement or if they abandon the property. Provisions supporting victims of family and domestic violence will also continue to apply.
Other elements of the new laws include:
- a ban on rent increases during the moratorium period;
- fixed-term tenancies will automatically convert to periodical tenancies if they expire during the period unless another fixed-term agreement is entered into;
- landlords do not have to carry out non-urgent repairs if they themselves are experiencing financial hardship or are not able to access the premises due to restrictions on movement; and
- tenants experiencing COVID-19 related financial hardship who end a fixed-term tenancy prior to its end date will not incur break lease fees, but will still be liable for damage and rent arrears.
The laws will apply to all residential tenancies including those in public and government housing, park homes as well as boarders and lodgers.
Landlords or tenants who are experiencing undue hardship can apply to the Magistrates Court to have the tenancy agreement terminated. For example, a landlord who loses their job and wants to make their rental property a primary residence will still be able to apply to the Court.
Affected landlords and tenants are urged to negotiate an agreement about when rent will be paid in a bid to preserve the tenancy during the six-month period. However, if agreement cannot be reached, the landlord and tenant will be required to participate in a mandatory conciliation requirement facilitated by the Commissioner for Consumer Protection. This conciliation process aims to relieve pressure on the Magistrates Court and State Administrative Tribunal (SAT).
The moratorium period is defined as starting from March 30, 2020 and can be reduced or extended by regulations to deal with changing circumstances.
Comments attributed to Premier Mark McGowan:
"The new laws recognise the financial impact of the current COVID-19 coronavirus measures on both landlords and tenants, but we want to prevent tenants having to move out or become homeless over what is a short-term situation.
"At this difficult time, I urge landlords and tenants to respectfully talk to each other about their circumstances and come to an arrangement that would suit both parties until the economy returns to normal. It may involve a rent-free period, a temporary reduction in rent or a reasonable repayment plan when the moratorium ends.
"The moratorium prevents evictions but should not be used as an excuse for tenants not to pay rent when they are in a position to do so. It is a moratorium on evictions, not on paying rent.
"Any unpaid rent will still need to be paid at the end of the moratorium period and the landlord will then be able to pursue payment as they would normally.
"Should there be any evidence of tenants or landlords abusing the moratorium, the Government will not hesitate to introduce further laws that will deal with those circumstances."
Comments attributed to Commerce Minister John Quigley:
"We hope landlords will be sympathetic and ensure tenants have an appropriate amount of time to repay any rent arrears or possibly even offer a reduction in the rent owing during the emergency period.
"If this doesn't occur, tenants will be able to break their lease giving 21 days' notice where they are in hardship, which will allow the landlord time to find a new tenant who can afford to pay the rent.
"If the landlord and tenant can't come to an amicable agreement, it will be mandatory for the dispute to be conciliated by Consumer Protection in the hope that it will be resolved before it goes to the Magistrates Court or, in the case of park home tenants, the SAT."
Premier's office - 6552 5000
Commerce Minister's office - 6552 6800