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Covid-19 - an update for landlords

March 28, 2020

We’ve spoken with a lot of our landlords 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 federal government has acknowledged these issues and have indicated that they are planning some safeguards for commercial and residential landlords, however, as at today (Friday 03/-4/20) details of these plans for residential tenancies have yet to be released, with the exception of a moratorium on evictions (see below). 

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 Sunday 29/03/20 the government announced a 6-month moratorium on evictions due to non-payment of rent related to Covid-19. Details about this have yet to be released and we will update this article as soon as we have more information. The wording of the government announcement suggests that tenants may still be evicted for non-financial reasons, such as if the landlord 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 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, that means video open homes and getting pre-approvals for all properties prior to taking prospective tenants through. We are also changing our lease agreement to ensure we are able to sign them based solely on the video inspection, should tenants feel comfortable with that.

How do I get in touch with my property manager?

Most agencies are still in operation, just remotely. Your property manager should 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?

Routine inspections are still occurring for most agencies, just a little differently. We have started to do these over Zoom with our tenants to ensure they feel safe. 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?

Depending on the urgency of maintenance over this time, we still have tradespeople able to assist as do most agencies. 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 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 landlords have landlords’ insurance and where they do not we are helping them arrange this right away. Most landlords 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 landlords over this time.