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Covid-19 Update for Landlords

September 07, 2021

We’ve spoken with a lot of our owners over the past couple of weeks and are hearing the anxiety many of them are feeling as the economic costs of the current health crisis hit home. In addition to facing a potential drop or loss of personal income, there is risk that tenants will be unable to meet rental obligations in the coming weeks and months.

The ACT government has acknowledged these concerns and indicated that they are planning some safeguards for commercial and residential tenants, however we are yet to hear details about these plans for residential tenancies with the exception of a moratorium on evictions.

Here are some of the frequently asked questions that can be answered at this time. We’ll be updating this article as we get more information and as we see new trends in the questions our clients have.

Can I evict my tenant during this health crisis?

On Wednesday 1/09/2021 the ACT government announced a 12-week moratorium on evictions due to non-payment of rent for impacted households related to COVID-19. The wording of the temporary measures suggests that tenants may still be evicted for non-financial reasons, such as if the owner needs to move into the property. A tenant may choose to contest an eviction during this period and given the circumstances, there is no precedence to indicate whether or not ACAT will uphold the eviction. 

The ACT government has requested that tenants and landlords negotiate rent payments privately if the tenant is having difficulty meeting their obligations. We have asked all tenants to get in touch with us as soon as possible if they are in this situation.

If I have a vacant property, can my property manager do open homes?

Unfortunately, we have now been told we must stop all open homes. Most agencies are exploring new ways to lease properties at the moment to ensure we are still able to assist our clients. For Independent, we will now be providing virtual walk-through videos, 360-degree virtual tours and images of the property on our online listings. This procedural change will be reflected in communication to prospective tenants as they enquire about properties. We are also changing our tenancy agreement to reflect the tenant’s acceptance of the property based solely on the video walk-through, should tenants feel comfortable with that. Our leasing team welcome any queries or questions you may have regarding our advertised properties and the new process moving forward.

How do I get in touch with my property manager?

Our agency is still in operation, just remotely. Your property manager will still be able to assist you as usual, so get in touch as you normally would.

How will my routine inspections be conducted at my property?

We have changed this process to a remote inspection, carried out by the tenant on our digital inspection platform: Inspection Express. In the days leading up to the inspection, we will provide a ‘how to’ guide to make sure the virtual inspection is as smooth as possible. We still ask the property is kept to a high standard and we guide the tenant through the process to ensure we are getting the information we need.

What if my property has maintenance over this time?

Due to the current restrictions, we are only able to issue work orders for urgent maintenance requests. We are triaging all other maintenance requests and will action these as soon the restrictions are updated to reflect trade access. Our after-hours urgent repairs process is still operating as normal and the tenant can follow our standard process via our website.

 Of course, there are many procedures that have been adopted by tradesman in the ACT to ensure your tenants safety is at the forefront of what they do.

What happens if my tenant vacates over this time?

We are still conducting final inspections, but again we are doing these a little differently. We are asking for tenants not to be physically present and video dial in. If you would like, your property manager can also Facetime you at the property after the inspection so you are kept in the loop.  

What happens if my tenant cannot pay rent over this time?

We are recommending all of our owners have landlords’ insurance and where they do not, we are helping them arrange this right away. Most landlord insurance policies include a loss of rent component so you can rest a little easier knowing you will be covered should this occur. It is always worth giving your insurer a call to discuss exactly what is and is not included in your policy. The government are currently looking to implement many strategies that will assist both tenants and owners over this time.

Can my tenant vacate without penalty over this period?

One of the temporary measures put in place notes that impacted households can request to end a fixed term tenancy early and without penalty by providing 3 weeks’ notice and evidence that they are impacted by COVID-19. If this occurs, your property manager will walk you through the process and we will re-advertise your property for new tenants as quickly as possible. In good news, the Canberra rental properties are in high demand at the moment due to low stock so we should be able to secure new tenants quickly.