The Victorian Premier has announced that the Victorian Parliament will be recalled early on 23 April 2020 to pass legislation in response to the following residential and commercial tenancy reforms agreed to by the National Cabinet:

  • a temporary ban on evictions for residential tenancies (subject to certain exceptions) and small to medium-sized businesses;

  • pausing rental increases for 6 months;

  • providing land tax relief ($420 million package) for landlords and rent relief for tenants experiencing financial hardship; and

  • implementing the National Cabinet’s mandatory code of conduct for tenancies.

The announcement confirms the government will create an $80 million rental assistance fund for renters facing hardship due to coronavirus. To be eligible for relief, the following criteria must be met:

  • renters will need to have registered their revised agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAF); and

  • renters must have less than $5,000 in savings and still be paying at least 30% of their income in rent.

The Premier’s media release states that:

  • to get through the crisis partnerships will have to be formed between tenants and landlords, and landlords and their banks, to help people continue to pay rent and keep a roof over their heads;

  • tenants and landlords who struggle to reach agreement over rent reductions will be given a fast-tracked dispute resolution service with CAF/ Victorian Small Business Commission to ensure fair agreements are reached;

  • land tax relief will be available to landlords who provide tenants impacted by coronavirus with rent relief in the form of a 25% discount on their land tax, while any remaining land tax can be deferred until March 2021;

  • a new Coronavirus Relief Deputy Commissioner will be established at the State Revenue Office to manage these land tax relief claims; and

  • the new measures will come into effect from 29 March for a period of 6 months.

Our view is that, given these measures are consistent with some of those measures proposed by the Queensland State Government yesterday, property owners and other interested groups can expect to  see more of these state by state government announcements over the remaining week. Clearly, each  state government is interpreting the broad Federal Government directives in a manner best suited to what the states see as the most expedient way to manage the short and medium term implications of the Federal Government’s Code announcement. We will bring you more on this as it develops and we will  also be releasing a state by state summary of provisions comparing each state’s regulatory moves in this area, once more of these are released to the public. Stay tuned for further updates.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2020.