On 2 April 2020, the Queensland Government announced its COVID-19 Rental Grant Scheme (Scheme) for residential tenancies. Under the Scheme, Queensland residential tenants may apply for a one-off payment of up to 4 weeks rent (up to a maximum of $2,000) paid by the Queensland Government directly to the affected landlord. The Scheme is only accessible to tenants who cannot access other financial assistance.

To qualify for the Scheme, tenants must: 

  • live in Queensland;

  • have, or will shortly have, a bond registered with the Residential Tenancies Authority;

  • be an Australian citizen, permanent resident, or have a temporary or permanent protection visa or a bridging visa;

  • not have more than $10,000 in cash and savings;

  • be able to provide evidence of attempts to negotiate a payment plan with their landlord;

  • have lost their job and have applied to Centrelink for income support; and

  • ​be waiting for their application with Centrelink to be approved.

​While the Scheme comes as timely relief for many residential landlords, it still requires a number of conditions to be met before any relief may actually be provided.

In light of the Scheme, residential landlords should consider the following practical steps before providing any rent reductions or suspensions:

1 - Ask your managing agent to speak with the tenant and gauge the tenant’s financial circumstances

  • Landlords should proactively maintain communication with their tenant via the managing agent to gauge the tenant’s current financial position, in anticipation of any rent abatement sought.

  • Upon receiving any request for rent abatement, we suggest that landlords query the tenant’s eligibility for the Scheme as this may confirm the genuineness of the request.

2 - Record any agreement made with the tenant in writing

  • The agreement should also explicitly address whether the tenant will be required to repay any reduced rent after the period of the agreement has passed.

3 - Contact your mortgagee to discuss deferring payments

  • The deferral of mortgage payments may provide landlords with some relief where a tenant is unable to pay.

  • This may increase the overall cost of the mortgage in the long run.

  • Landlords should seek financial advice regarding whether any additional interest and borrowing costs may be an allowable tax deduction.

4 - Consider any existing insurance policies

  • Landlords should consider the terms of any existing insurance policies to determine if they are eligible to make a claim where a tenant is unable to pay rent.

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.