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16 April 2020

Changes to Tasmanian residential tenancy laws during COVID-19

Carly Hanson

Senior Associate

On 3 April 2020, the Minister for Building and Construction issued a notice under section 22 of the COVID-19 Disease (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 (“COVID-19 Act”) to prevent residential tenancy evictions for a period of at least 90 days. What this means is that:

  • any Notice to Vacate issued by a landlord is of no effect until 30 June 2020 unless any of the exceptions set out below apply;
  • the eviction ban also applies to a Notice to Vacate that has been issued to a tenant prior to 3 April 2020 and where the tenant is yet to vacate;
  • the exceptions in which a tenant can still be evicted are:
  • by agreement between landlord and tenant;
  • if the notice was issued prior to 3 April 2020 and it is a non-fixed term tenancy where the property is to be sold;
  • where the notice is issued because the tenant has been using the property for an unlawful purpose;
  • in circumstances where the tenancy is terminated for severe hardship by order of the Residential Tenancy Commissioner; or
  • where the tenancy is terminated by an order is made by the Magistrates Court of Tasmania as a result of violence or damage caused by wilful behaviour.
  • Notices to Vacate can still be issued prior to 30 June 2020 but will have no effect until after this date;
  • these new measures will be reviewed after the initial 90 day period and may be extended.

Another significant change that has been made to residential tenancy laws by operation of the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 (Tas) and the COVID-19 Act are that for an emergency period of 120 days (from 27 March 2020):

  • there is a suspension on evictions specifically relating to rent in arrears;
  • all property inspections are limited to specific purposes only such as damage to the premises or on reasonable belief that the tenant is ill or injured;
  • general repairs and maintenance will not be required to be done, however urgent or emergency repairs are still allowed and are necessary.

It is important to note that during the emergency period landlords and tenants can come to an agreement to reduce rent. Any agreement should to be in writing and signed by both parties.

Importantly, the Minister has pointed out that this is not an opportunity for tenants to avoid paying rent. The Government’s strong advice to tenants is to continue to pay rent and that the emergency period amendments do not provide a rent holiday. Landlords and tenants should keep their communication open during these uncertain times and if any issues arise Simmons Wolfhagen are here to help.

If you are a landlord or tenant and require advice in relation to your rights under a residential tenancy agreement or assistance in applying for a hardship order please contact either our Hobart or Launceston office who are ready to assist you.

Hobart – (03) 6226 1200

Launceston – (30) 6338 2390

Email – contact@simwolf.com.au

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