Minister for Building and Construction
The Tasmanian Government was the first government in Australia to legislate protections for residential property owners and tenants through the COVID-19 Disease Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 and we have consistently demonstrated our commitment to supporting Tasmanians through the challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In June 2020, our Government extended certain protections for residential tenants until 30 September 2020. This timing brought Tasmania into line with the expiry of protections in most other states and territories.
A further extension of these protections until 1 December 2020 was found to be necessary and this was announced on 4 September 2020.
We have been monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely as we have sought to reopen our borders to low risk jurisdictions and considered other recent jurisdictional experiences.
Due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on the Tasmanian economy, the Government has made a decision to extend the emergency period for residential and commercial tenancies until 31 January 2021. This is a reasonable period of time taking us well past Christmas and the new year, but also bearing in mind that a number of other jurisdictions, including New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria have extended their residential tenancy protections until late March 2021.
This decision has not been made lightly, however, the safety and security of Tasmanians is of paramount importance to our Government.
Bearing in mind this impacts financially on landlords in particular, in addition to the extension of the emergency period, the Government will also be extending the availability of both the COVID-19 Rent Relief Fund and the COVID-19 Landlord Support Fund which have been extremely successful in helping to settle rent arrears while allowing Tasmanians to stay in their homes during this challenging period. Landlords and tenants can reapply for additional support if the tenant is in rent arrears between 1 December 2020 and 31 January 2021 as a result of the impact of COVID-19.
As I have said throughout the emergency period, this is not a rent holiday and where tenants are able to continue paying their rent, they should continue to do so as they are still liable to pay rent.
We recognise the daily challenges faced by landlords and tenants during this time of financial hardship and will continue to monitor the situation and provide the necessary support.
The Government has recently passed amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 that will allow tenants who are still in rent arrears and have been genuinely affected by COVID-19 to enter into a payment plan with their landlord for outstanding rent arrears at the conclusion of the emergency period.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the significant impacts felt by both landlords and tenants due to COVID-19 and hope that both accept that this is a challenging time for both tenants and landlords and that this extension and financial assistance strikes the right balance.