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The impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus has touched the lives of every Western Australian, bringing with it tough challenges for many people. Some people have lost their jobs or had their income reduced, and they are battling to make ends meet with worries about how they will afford basics like food plus their mortgage or rent.
To help WA tenants and landlords, the State Government has created new laws to protect people struggling financially. They have also introduced a rent relief grant and a new, free conciliation service so that problems can be resolved without going to court.
Here are four steps to survive renting during COVID-19.
Understand the moratorium on evictions for renters
Worried your landlord may kick you out because you’re struggling to pay the rent? The good news is that renters cannot be evicted during the emergency period from 30 March 2020 to 29 September 2020 for not paying rent if they are financially affected by COVID-19. If your landlord issues a termination notice during this time, do not leave the premises and call Consumer Protection on 1300 304 054 for help, or apply to the mandatory conciliation service for assistance.
The moratorium also includes a ban on rent increases during the emergency period.
Be open and honest with your landlord
Keeping the lines of communication with your landlord open and honest is one of the best ways to reduce some of the stress that comes with struggling financially.
Talk about your money issues and try to come to a compromise that suits you both - this could include a reduction in the weekly rent for a period of time. Your landlord may even be prepared to defer or waive rent, depending on their own circumstances. Consumer Protection has some helpful resources for negotiating rent repayment agreements. If you need help working out how much you can afford, contact a financial counsellor. There are free financial counselling services across Western Australia, which can be found by calling the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.
Make use of Consumer Protection’s free conciliation service
Talking about money issues and other concerns with your landlord can be difficult. The new Residential Tenancies Mandatory Conciliation Service has been set up to help landlords and tenants work out renting issues during WA’s COVID-19 emergency period. It’s a free service that’s different to court, as it’s a relaxed discussion to help everyone reach a solution that’s fair and achievable. The best part is that sessions can be conducted by telephone or video conference, anywhere across the State and at a time that suits.
General Manager Trish Blake says the service is invaluable in sorting out problems without long and expensive court proceedings.
“Landlords and tenants are able to have their side of the story heard by someone independent who is there to find an answer that suits, rather than having a court impose a decision on them. Through talking to each other in a friendly setting, both get a better understanding of the other’s situation and this helps them work together to reach agreement.”
Tenants who may be concerned about being evicted after the moratorium ends on 29 September 2020 because they have not been able to pay their full rent are encouraged to make an application now for conciliation to have a rent repayment agreement in place. A rent repayment agreement between a tenant and landlord may help to reduce the risk of eviction when rental laws return to normal.
Claim a rent relief grant of up to $2,000
If you’re renting a home and have lost your job or had your income reduced by 75% or more due to COVID-19, on or after 20 March 2020, you can apply for a rent relief grant of up to $2,000. This is paid directly to your landlord, who reduces your rent by the amount received.
Trish Blake urges struggling renters to fill out the online grant form now.
“Don’t wait until it’s too late, applications for the grant close on 29 September 2020 and Consumer Protection wants to make sure everyone affected by COVID-19 benefits from this well timed rent support.”
Current COVID-19 rent laws end 29 September 2020. Visit the Consumer Protection WA website to find out more.