Residential tenants experiencing financial hardship in the wake of COVID-19 have been granted a reprieve, with the ACT government extending its moratorium on evictions.
Under the announcement, the ACT moratorium has been extended for three months until 22 October and households affected by pandemic-related job losses can now terminate their fixed-term tenancy agreements early without penalty.
The extension is in line with the decision by National Cabinet in late March for a moratorium on residential evictions for at least six months.
“In addition to the moratorium on evictions for rental arrears, a COVID-19 impacted household can now terminate their agreement by providing their landlord with three weeks’ notice and evidence that they have been impacted by COVID-19,” ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said.
“In these circumstances, tenants will not be charged a ‘break-lease’ fee or be required to pay additional compensation. However, if they have fallen into rent arrears during the tenancy this money would still be owed as a debt to their landlord.
“This new measure will provide additional support to COVID-19-impacted tenants by removing the need for them to make an application to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) to terminate their tenancy due to hardship.”
Joel Dignam, executive director for ACT tenant advocacy group, Better Renting, welcomed the extension saying it would give renters more “breathing space” in the wake of COVID-19.
“It’s great that the moratorium has been extended,” Mr Dignam said. “A lot of tenants have lost income, either a permanent loss or a period where they were without income for several weeks.
“People are doing what they can to stay on top of their rent, but particularly with a lot of landlords not giving rent reductions and the fact that there are people facing rental debt because of that, the moratorium has given people a bit of breathing space. This extension will help with that.”
In April, the ACT government announced $214 million towards a COVID-19 economic recovery, including support for renters suffering rental stress due to lost income.
The government also encouraged landlords to reduce rents by at least 25% for tenants under rental stress by sharing the cost reduction of the rental on a 50/50 basis, capped at $1,300 per quarter (around $100 a week).