Tenancies impacted by COVID-19 Emergency Measures Legislation 

26 March 2020

The NSW Parliament has passed legislation giving the NSW Government the power to ban evictions for six months, whilst the Federal Government is contemplating rent freezes. 

The COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 (NSW) was assented to on 25 March 2020. It empowers the NSW Government to make regulations relating to residential tenancies and retail tenancies affected by COVID-19. 
The Act amends various statutes in response to COVID-19, including amending the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) and the Retail Leases Act 1994 (NSW) by permitting the NSW Government to make regulations:

  • prohibiting the repossession of a premises;
  • prohibiting the landlord from terminating a tenancy agreement in particular circumstances;
  • regulating or preventing the exercise or enforcement of another right of a landlord under the relevant Act or tenancy agreement; and
  • exempting a tenant or class of tenants from complying with the relevant Act or tenancy agreement, where such regulations are needed to protect the health, safety and welfare of tenants under the relevant Act.
We will have to wait and see which tenant and landlord rights and obligations will be affected but bullet points 3 and 4 (above) are likely to focus on rent, access and break lease. 

Along with this new Act there are a number of other new issues to be considered specifically in relation to tenants in response to the COVID-19-related economic crisis.
As a result of this, REINSW fears the NSW Government could remove tenants' obligations to pay their rent. REINSW believes this concept is fundamentally flawed for the following reasons:

  • removing the obligation of a tenant to pay rent merely transfers the difficult financial circumstances of the tenant to the landlord;
  • if landlords are required to absorb these expenses, then effectively the government is asking the landlord to provide social housing; and
  • a better solution is for the Federal Government to provide tenants with assistance to pay the rent and allow the money to move, keeping the economy active.
Please click here to view the media release that REINSW has issued.
We encourage members to contact your local member of government regarding the impact of these legislative changes.
REINSW is working on a template email that members could utilise when contacting their local member and this will be distributed at the first opportunity. 
Should further information be released in relation to the above, we'll notify you at the earliest opportunity.