Covid-19 Emergency Written on Red background

Passed on 24 April 2020, the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommo-dation (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020 contains provisional amendments to support tenants and landlords during the COVID-19 emergency.

The regulation, which will be in effect during the COVID-19 emergency period and will end on 31 December 2020, applies to residential tenancy agreements signed before or after 29 March 2020, and landlords, tenants and their agents involved in those agreements.

[View PDF of the COVID-19 Response Regulation]

Here are some of the Act’s implications on people with a residential tenancy agreement in place:

Moratorium on evictions

A landlord (and its agents) are not allowed to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent if: the tenant is experiencing extreme hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

If they do, the landlord will incur an offence bearing a maximum penalty of 50 penalty points, or equivalent to $6,672.50 at present.

But a landlord is permitted to evict a tenant because of:

  • Any other reason that would be allowed under the RTRA Act, for example, failure to remedy a violation within the allowed remedy period;
  • Failure to pay rent for reasons other than severe difficulties brought about by the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The landlord giving the tenant notice to leave or applying to QCAT for an or-der ending the Tenancy Agreement before 29 March 2020.

The curb on evictions starts from 29 March 2020 and ends on the earlier of a) 39 September 2020; b) the last day of the COVID-19 emergency period, which started on 29 January 2020 and will end when the relevant Minister deems the public health emergency over under section 324 of the Public Health Act 2005 (Qld).

Extending of fixed-term tenancy agreements

If a fixed-term tenancy agreement will terminate on or before 29 September 2020 and the tenant is having a very hard time due to the COVID-19 emergen-cy, the landlord is required to offer the tenant an extension of the term until 30 September 2020 and the offer must be offered prior to the termination of the term of the tenancy agreement.

The tenant is not required to pay any costs that the landlord may incur because of the extension.

If the landlord fails to offer an extension, the landlord will incur an offence equal to the maximum penalty of 50 penalty points.

However, if the tenancy agreement ended before 29 March 2020, the landlord is not required to offer the tenant a term extension, unless the landlord’s notice to leave, or the tenant’s notice of intention to leave is not valid, or the QCAT application is disapproved.

Unpaid rent

If the tenant is provided a show case notice for unpaid rent, the tenant is re-quired to do either of the following within 14 days after receiving the notice: a) pay the unpaid rent; or b) inform the landlord the rent is unpaid because the tenant is experiencing excessive hardship due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Tenancy variation agreements

A tenant and landlord are permitted to enter into an agreement for a rent re-duction for a specific period or a payment plant for unpaid rent, each of which is considered a tenancy variation agreement.

This agreement must be in the approved form and be signed by both the land-lord and the tenant.

Failure to leave due to unpaid rent

If a landlord provides the tenant a notice to leave due to an unremedied breach; and files an application with the QCAT for a termination order due to the ten-ant’s failure to evacuate –

QCAT is bound by the regulation not to approved the landlord’s application if: the unremedied breach concerns the unpaid rent; and the rent is not paid be-cause the tenant is experiencing extreme hardship due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Virtual inspections

A landlord or its agents are only allowed to inspect the premises or to show them to prospective buyers or tenant through:

  • Virtual inspection: an electronic way of conducting visual inspection
  • Video conferencing
  • Providing access to photos or videos sufficient to allow a judgment to be made on the state of the premises.

For more important provisions relating to residential premises under the newly passed Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020, visit: https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/pdf/asmade/sl-2020-0057