Six-month moratorium on evictions legalised in WA

Six-month moratorium on evictions legalised in WA

Both residential and commercial tenants will be saved from eviction after a six-month moratorium passed the Western Australian Parliament this afternoon.

WA businesses will also benefit from the Parliament legislating a mandatory code of conduct, based on the National Cabinet Code of Conduct, designed to assist with negotiations between landlords and tenants.

In addition to the eviction moratorium, which will be backdated to March 30, 2020, the legislation includes:

  • A freeze on rent increases;
  • Restrictions on penalties for tenants who do not trade or reduce trading hours;
  • No interest to be charged on rent arrears;
  • The introduction of an enhanced dispute resolution process; and
  • A prohibition on landlords progressing proceedings that occurred after the restrictions were imposed but before these laws came into operation.

With regard to the code of conduct, the impact the COVID-19 restrictions have had on the business with regard to revenue, expenses and profitability will be taken into consideration when determining and implementing appropriate deferrals, reductions or waivers of rent as well as sharing costs.

"It is crucial for the WA economy that small businesses are able to survive this period of restrictions and it's hoped these measures will support efforts in preventing business failures and get people back to work when it's over," says WA Premier Mark McGowan.

"We urge all commercial landlords and tenants to enter into negotiations with a sense of shared destiny and to understand each other's difficulties at this time.

"Business closures will benefit no-one, so mutually acceptable arrangements are urgently required to help save these businesses so they can bounce back quickly."

For residential tenants the new laws implement the decision of the National Cabinet and are designed to prevent tenants from having to move out or being made homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tenants may still be evicted if they are causing damage to the property, posting a threat to the landlord or neighbours, not paying rent, refusing to make a rent repayment agreement or if they abandon the property.

Rent increases during the moratorium period will be banned under the legislation and tenants experiencing Covid-19 related financial hardship who ended a fixed-term tenancy prior to its end date will not incur break lease fees, but will still be liable for damage and rent arrears.

For residential landlords the legislation will mean that they do not have to carry out non-urgent repairs if they themselves are experiencing financial hardship or are unable to access the premises due to restrictions on movement.

The laws will apply to all residential tenancies including those in public and government housing, park homes as well as boarders and lodgers.

"The new laws recognise the financial impact of the current COVID-19 coronavirus measures on both landlords and tenants, but we want to prevent tenants having to move out or become homeless over what is a short-term situation," says McGowan.

"The moratorium prevents evictions but should not be used as an excuse for tenants not to pay rent when they are in a position to do so. It is a moratorium on evictions, not on paying rent.

"Any unpaid rent will still need to be paid at the end of the moratorium period and the landlord will then be able to pursue payment as they would normally."

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