WA extends tenancy emergency period by six months

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THE Western Australian government has extended the emergency period for commercial and residential tenancies for six months to March 28 next year.

Commerce Minister John Quigley said the move will provide ongoing support for small commercial tenants experiencing COVID-19 hardship.

The measures include the moratorium on evictions, freeze on rent increases and code of conduct for small business commercial lease rent relief negotiations.

However after September 29, when the current arrangements ends, the government will refine commercial tenancies (COVID-19) legislation to offer targeted assistance to small businesses that continue to experience financial hardship and qualify for JobKeeper (or their loss in turnover is more than 30%).

“The decision to extend the emergency period for a further six months is consistent with the emergency period recently announced in Victoria and South Australia. While it’s pleasing to see many businesses recovering economically, there are still others in COVID financial hardship,” Minister Quigley said.

Small Business Minister Paul Papalia said while some WA businesses have successfully weathered the uncertainty of the past few months, many others are still doing it tough.

“Extending the emergency period will assist these tenants to negotiate further rent relief with their landlords to provide additional breathing space as the WA economy continues to rebound,” he added.

The government has also extended the moratorium on rent increases and other provisions for residential tenancies over the same period.

The Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme will continue through the extended emergency period with tenants who have had a reduction of 75% or more in their after-tax income eligible for funds.

Eligible renters can apply for grants equivalent to four weeks’ rent to a maximum of $2,000, paid directly to landlords who then reduce tenants’ rent by the same amount.

“For residential tenancies, low vacancy rates for rental properties have, and will continue to force rents to rise, and this together with the current unemployment rate, as well as changes to JobKeeper, means families may find themselves in financial hardship.

“Those who have been able to return to work are only just starting to recover. To add difficulties in finding rental accommodation or not being able to afford rent to their worries would be an awful proposition,” Quigley said.

“Renters must remember that this is not a moratorium on paying rent. If tenants are not financially affected by COVID and can afford to pay rent, they must do so because private landlords can still go to court to terminate a tenancy.

“Landlords can also apply to the court to terminate an agreement and evict a tenant in certain circumstances, including when a tenant is seriously damaging the premises or causing injury to the landlord or neighbours.

“Landlords can also, by court order, terminate a tenancy where they need to return to the premises as their primary residence and retain the right to sell their investment property at any time,” he concluded.

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