COVID-19: Tenancy

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the West Australian government has passed new laws to prevent tenants from being forced to move out of their rental properties or be made homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic. Long-stay residents in residential parks, boarders and lodgers paying rent are also covered. 

The West Australian government has also announced that those struggling to pay their rent could be eligible for a grant of up to $2,000 for four weeks rent as part of a $30 million scheme which is set to start on 1 May 2020.

Moratorium

The WA government has adopted a moratorium during an emergency period which began on 30 March 2020. The end date is 29 September 2020 however the government may change the end date to be earlier or later, depending on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tenants, long-stay residents in residential parks, boarders and lodgers experiencing difficulty paying rent due to financial hardship caused by COVID-19 should contact their landlord as soon as possible. Options to consider include whether the tenancy or accommodation agreement can be changed  to cover deferring rent payments to a specified later date when the renter’s income improves; a decrease in rent for a specified period; or terminating the lease without penalty.

If an agreement can’t be reached with a landlord there is provision under the changes (for either party) to make a submission to the Commissioner for Consumer Protection. These provisions are yet to be proclaimed. 

Other changes to residential tenancy laws by the West Australian government include:

  • a ban on rent increases during the emergency period (except where a renter and a landlord agree to a rent reduction due to financial hardship during the emergency period, the rent may be increased during the emergency period to no more than the amount that it was prior to the rent reduction agreement being made, only if both the renter and the landlord agree).
  • 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 be penalised and incur break lease fees. The tenants will still be liable for damage and rent arrears. 

Termination and eviction

Tenants should be aware that leases can still be terminated and tenants can be evicted if they are:

  • causing damage to the property;
  • posing a threat to the landlord or neighbours;
  • not paying rent if they are not suffering coronavirus related hardship; or
  • refusing to make a rent payment agreement or if they abandon the property.

A tenant’s interest in a tenancy agreement can be terminated arising out of family violence.

Landlords or tenants suffering hardship can apply to the Magistrates Court to have a tenancy agreement terminated.

For further information, please go to the West Australian government COVID-19 website on Residential tenants and landlords.

If you are a tenant with queries about your tenancy and you require legal assistance, please contact Tenancy WA.  

Tenancy WA provide telephone advice to tenants across Western Australia. However sometimes you may need personal assistance with your tenancy queries and that is when you can talk to a Tenant Advocate. A Tenant Advocate can help with advice, writing letters, applications, and going to Court. If you have trouble accessing the Tenancy WA advice service, you can call your local tenant advocate for advice.

 

Reviewed: 19 May 2020

Disclaimer

The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.