Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19)

REINSW is monitoring the evolving situation in relation to the impact of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), previously known as Novel Coronavirus.

We have been posting on our social media profiles and emailing updates as they come in. If you missed any they can all be found in the 'Latest updates' section on this page.



Latest news • Media releases & coverage • Webinars • Podcasts

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Webinar | How to rapidly list in tightening conditions with Josh Phegan

(29/05/2020)
Tim and Leanne are joined by Josh Phegan - internationally renowned go-to speaker, trainer and coach for high-performance real estate agents and agencies. This is a must see for sales agents.

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Practical analysis of the NSW regulations

(28/05/2020)
By Kendra McKay & Maged Jebeile On 24 April 2020, the Retail and Other Commercial Leases (COVID-19) Regulation 2020 (NSW) (Regulation) commenced, affecting both retail and commercial leases in New South Wales.

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Landlords are suffering too - it's time to make the $2500 subsidy available to those who need it

(28/05/2020)
MEDIA RELEASE: On the 16th of May 2020, NSW Parliament gave the Government the power to assist landlords who are called upon to provide support to their tenants economically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Changing insurance landscape amidst COVID-19 pandemic

(27/05/2020)
Landlord insurance company Terri Scheer has advised that it will not be responding to claims for loss of rent as a consequence of a negotiated rent reduction.

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Landlords and tenants left high and dry by insurers

(27/05/2020)
MEDIA RELEASE: REINSW received the news this week that another landlord insurance company is making things difficult for Australian landlords with tenants economically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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/images/REINSW_Images/WOD/2020/5. May/Intro Josh Phegan.jpg

Webinar | How to rapidly list in tightening conditions with Josh Phegan

(29/05/2020)
Tim and Leanne are joined by Josh Phegan - internationally renowned go-to speaker, trainer and coach for high-performance real estate agents and agencies. This is a must see for sales agents.

More >>>
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Webinar | Coping through tough times with Jet Xavier

(22/05/2020)
REINSW President Leanne Pilkington is joined by Jet Xavier - Australia’s leading elite performance mental skills and mindset coach in the real estate sales industry.

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Webinar | Coping with COVID-19 as a Property Manager

(20/05/2020)
Property managers are shouldering so much of the burden created by COVID-19. Leanne and Tim are joined by Michelle McLean, Senior Property Manager and REINSW Property Management Chapter Committee Chair to answer your FAQs.

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Webinar | REI Super – COVID-19 & Your Superannuation

(15/05/2020)
Tim McKibbin is joined by Jarrod Coysh and Sharlene Jamieson from REI Super to discuss the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on your superannuation.

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Webinar | Online Auctions - The Way Forward

(14/05/2020)
Expert auctioneers Clarence White, James Pratt and Jesse Davidson share practical advice about online auctions and how they work.

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A tenant has advised that they cannot pay their rent. What should I do next?

The first step is to ask the tenant to complete REINSW’s Rent Relief Request Form. That way, the landlord/agent can determine whether or not the tenant is an “impacted tenant” as defined in the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW). If a tenant is a member of a household impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, then they are an impacted tenant.

NSW Fair Trading’s website sets out the list of eligibility requirements for demonstrating whether a household is impacted by COVID-19:

https://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/resource-library/publications/coronavirus-covid-19/property/moratorium

What if the tenant fails to pay rent and is impacted by COVID-19?

If the tenant is in rental arrears and meets the criteria of an “impacted tenant” under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW), they are covered by the protections afforded to tenants during the moratorium period which ends on 15 October 2020. During the moratorium period, landlords can only serve a termination notice on the impacted tenant or apply for a termination order in relation to rental arrears if:

  • at least 60 days have passed since the commencement of the Residential Tenancies Amendment (COVID-19) Regulation 2020 (NSW) (i.e. since 15 April 2020);
  • the landlord has participated, in good faith, in a formal rent negotiation process (facilitated by NSW Fair Trading); and
  • it is fair and reasonable in the circumstances of the case.

If the tenant is an impacted tenant, then the landlord should enter into good faith negotiations with the tenant regarding rent as soon as practicable in order to reach a resolution.

There is no requirement for landlords to waive or defer any rent or accrued arrears.

It is recommended that landlords rely on their own enquiries with their insurers in relation to any impact an agreement reached in these circumstances might have on any potential future claims for rent default or loss of rent.

What if the tenant fails to pay rent and is NOT impacted by COVID-19?

The 60 day-stop on termination notices or applications to NCAT for termination orders and other prohibitions on the landlord during the 6-month moratorium period only apply where the tenant is an impacted tenant (that is, where they are a member of a household impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic).

If a tenant is not COVID-19 impacted and is not engaging with the landlord/agent then the landlord/agent can issue a termination notice or apply to NCAT for an order, as per the usual process. We recommend that you use REINSW’s template termination notices available on REI Forms Live, which are compliant with the legislation.

For clarity, the landlord/agent does not need to go through NSW Fair Trading’s dispute resolution service where the tenant is not an impacted tenant (that is, where the tenant is a member of a household that is not impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic).

What if the COVID-19 impacted tenant refuses to engage with the landlord/agent?

The landlord should attempt to engage the tenant using NSW Fair Trading’s dispute resolution process.

What if a tenant is not engaging with the landlord/agent making it difficult for the landlord/agent to determine whether the tenant is an impacted tenant (regardless of whether or not they were in arrears before the pandemic)?

In this particular situation, the landlord/agent would be able to issue a termination notice or apply to NCAT for a termination order. We recommend that you use REINSW’s template termination notices available on REI Forms Live, which are compliant with the legislation.

However, in taking this action, the landlord/agent should make it clear to the tenant that there is a 60-day stop on evictions for tenants that are impacted by COVID-19 (in accordance with the eligibility criteria).

What are some strategies to use when negotiating rent deferrals, waivers or reductions with tenants and landlords?

Perhaps a good place to start is by asking the tenant to put forward a suggestion or proposal of what they can pay, including dates on which payments can be made. Ask the landlord to do the same but in reverse - what they could receive at a minimum - and then try to negotiate a successful outcome between both parties. This negotiation suggestion is not going to be possible in some cases and can only be successful if both parties negotiate reasonably and in good faith. Often there is no easy answer to this question as there are no hard and fast rules in this process. Accordingly, REINSW anticipates that many landlords and tenants will be reliant upon NSW Fair Trading’s dispute resolution service, formal mediation or NCAT decisions for resolution.

I have a tenant stating that they are a member of a household impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, however, they are refusing to provide proof to support this claim. What do I do?

You should send them a letter requesting the supporting documents using REINSW’s template letter addressed to the tenant who has not provided supporting documents. This template can be found on REINSW’s website here (for commercial tenants) or here (for residential tenants)

Where a tenant is unwilling to assist in good faith negotiations, formal rent negotiations through NSW Fair Trading’s dispute resolution service should be sought.

Whilst a tenant is not legally obliged to provide evidence supporting their claim, failure by any party involved in this process to act reasonably, honestly, transparently and in good faith could hinder the chances of a successful resolution.

I have a tenant who has stopped paying rent or is paying a reduced amount of rent without the landlord’s consent. What do I do?

You should send the tenant a letter reminding them that there has been no change to their obligation to pay rent under the lease and that they are still required to pay the full amount of rent in accordance with the terms of the lease until such time as the parties otherwise agree.

You should use REINSW’s template letter that has been prepared for this scenario, which can be found on REINSW’s website here (for commercial tenants) or here (for residential tenants).

What do we do if a landlord and a COVID-19 impacted tenant are unable to agree on rent payments?

Where an agreement cannot be reached through your own negotiations, in an attempt to seek resolution, both parties must engage in a formal rent negotiation process, facilitated by NSW Fair Trading via its dispute resolution service. An application to use NSW Fair Trading’s dispute resolution service can be made here.

Can I serve a termination notice on an impacted tenant in arrears or apply to NCAT for a termination order?

If a COVID–19 impacted tenant falls 14 days into arrears and the parties have participated, in good faith, in a formal rent negotiation process, if it is fair and reasonable to do so in the circumstances of the case, the landlord may serve on the tenant a termination notice for non-payment of rent (providing 14 days’ notice to vacate) but only once the 60-day stop on termination notices has expired (being, 15 June 2020). We recommend that you use REINSW’s template termination notices available on REI Forms Live, which are compliant with the legislation.

Once a termination notice for non-payment of rent has been served, an application to NCAT for a termination order may be made on behalf of the landlord following the usual process.

Due to the 6-month moratorium period, NCAT will not issue an order for vacant possession until at least 16 October 2020.

If the tenant is not a COVID-19 impacted tenant, the usual process of issuing a termination notice for non-payment of rent should be followed whereby the tenant is given 14 days’ notice to vacate the premises. You can make an application to NCAT for vacant possession on behalf of the landlord prior to the termination notice expiring. However, please note that you should provide as much supporting evidence as possible to establish that the tenant is not a COVID-19 impacted tenant.

I’ve heard that termination notice periods during the moratorium period have been extended. What are the new notice periods?

The termination dates for particular termination notices given during the moratorium period is governed by the Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019 (NSW). The following termination notice periods apply to the following types of termination notices during the moratorium period:

  • Breach of agreement (other than non-payment of rent) under section 87 now requires a 90-day notice period (as opposed to 14 days)
  • Ending a residential tenancy agreement at the end of a fixed term tenancy under section 84 now requires a 90-day notice period (as opposed to 30 days)

 

We recommend that you use REINSW’s template termination notices available on REI Forms Live, which are compliant with the legislation.

If an application was made to NCAT for a termination order, NCAT would determine the notice period and is unlikely to order a termination date that is earlier than the expiry of the 6-month moratorium period or 90 days, whichever is greater.

Do the new termination notice periods apply to all types of terminations?

No. A termination notice can be served on a tenant in the usual way in the following circumstances:

  • the tenant is in breach of the residential tenancy agreement due to non-payment of rent/charges not due to the tenant being impacted by COVID-19 (section 88);
  • the landlord is suffering hardship (section 93);
  • the tenant has caused serious damage to the property or injury to the landlord, the landlord’s agent or neighbour (section 90);
  • the tenant uses the premises for illegal purposes (section 91);
  • the tenant has threatened, abused, intimidated or harassed the landlord, the landlord’s agent or another person (section 92);
  • the landlord has entered into a contract for sale of the premises under which vacant possession is required (section 86); and
  • the tenant has not complied with a rectification order (section 92A).

REINSW has prepared template termination notices that are applicable to some of the above circumstances and are available on REI Forms Live.

Do the restrictions on applying to NCAT for a termination order apply to all types of terminations?

No. An application to NCAT for a termination order can still occur in the usual way in the following circumstances:

  • the tenant is in breach of the residential tenancy agreement due to non-payment of rent/charges not due to the tenant being impacted by COVID-19 (section 88);
  • the landlord is suffering hardship (section 93);
  • the tenant has caused serious damage to the property or injury to the landlord, the landlord’s agent or neighbour (section 90);
  • the tenant uses the premises for illegal purposes (section 91);
  • the tenant has threatened, abused, intimidated or harassed the landlord, the landlord’s agent or another person (section 92);
  • the landlord has entered into a contract for sale of the premises under which vacant possession is required (section 86); and
  • the tenant has not complied with a rectification order (section 92A).

Can I still undertake my routine/periodic inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Whilst there is nothing legally preventing an agent from undertaking physical routine or periodic inspections on behalf of a landlord during this time, before doing so, each agency should review and adapt their own risk management strategy regarding COVID-19 in consultation with their workers compensation insurer and, where applicable, the Real Estate Employers Federation (REEF).

Where a decision is made to undertake these inspections utilising virtual software/technology, it is recommended that agents first contact their professional indemnity and public liability insurers to make enquiries regarding inspections being conducted in a virtual environment.

Tenants are not allowing access for repairs, maintenance and open for inspections even though they have been given appropriate notice. What should we do?

There has been no change to the notice periods required before entering a premises during a residential tenancy agreement without the tenant’s consent (section 55).

Ideally, all repairs should take place during this pandemic period, however, we understand that some trades and services are only attending to urgent and essential repairs. It is imperative for maintenance to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic period if it is mandatory smoke alarm maintenance, urgent repairs or repairs where a person’s health and/or safety could be at risk.

If entry for the purpose of checking smoke alarms is not permitted by a tenant, clear written notes must be kept on file to demonstrate the agent’s attempts to comply and the circumstances of any refusal of access.  


Templates • Forms • Guidelines and more

Property Management

Letter templates regarding property inspections
  • LETTER FOR TENANTS - Letter that may be sent to tenants where REINSW’s Notice of Access/Inspection/Entry (FM01010) has been previously served on the tenant(s).
  • LETTER FOR CONTRACTORS - Letter that may be sent to contractors and/or tradespeople where REINSW’s Notice of Access/Inspection/Entry (FM01010) has been previously served on the tenant(s) and the real estate principal is seeking to determine if there is a potential coronavirus risk to the individual who will be attending the rental premises. 
Letter templates to staff
Letter templates regarding rent
REINSW letter templates
NSW Fair Trading letter templates
General
Legislation

Useful information and tools for property professionals and tenants


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