On 29 March 2020, the WA Government committed to implementing a six- month moratorium on rental evictions for commercial and residential tenants in financial distress, and a mandatory code of conduct for commercial tenancies to support small and medium sized businesses affected by COVID-19, as agreed at National Cabinet.
On 14 April 2020, the WA Government announced it will introduce urgent legislation to address commercial and residential tenancies impacted by rental distress due to COVID-19.
The key measures being introduced are as follows:
New laws will put into place a six-month moratorium on evictions and other measures relating to commercial tenancies in order to address the financial impacts of COVID-19, including introduction of a code of conduct.
The aim of the legislation is to help small and medium-sized enterprises that are in financial distress to survive the current restrictions.
The Commercial Tenancies (COVID-19 Response) Bill 2020 will introduce:
• A six-month moratorium on evictions due to non-payment of rent;
• A freeze on rent increases;
• Restrictions on penalties for tenants who do not trade or reduced their trading hours;
• Prohibitions on charging interest on rent arrears;
• The introduction of a dispute resolution process; and
• An ability for government to prescribe a code of conduct.
The Residential Tenancies (COVID-19 Response) Bill 2020 will introduce:
• A moratorium on eviction for six months except in limited circumstances (e.g., if a tenant is causing serious damage to the property or the landlord or tenant is experiencing undue hardship; or a tenant is experiencing family violence and the perpetrator needs to be evicted);
• A prohibition on rent increases during the emergency period;
• That any fixed term tenancy agreement due to expire during the emergency period will continue as a periodic agreement;
• Relieving lessors of the obligation to conduct ordinary repairs if the reason they cannot do so is covid-19 related financial hardship or a lawful restriction on movement; and
• Enabling a tenant to end a fixed term tenancy before its end date without incurring break fees (damage and rent arrears are still payable).
Other rent relief measures
Rental payments will be waived for small businesses in Government- owned buildings for six months to help these lease holders respond to the impacts of COVID-19.
Pastoral lease holders will be able to request rent payments be reduced, waived or delayed where the lease has been adversely affected, or if the lease holder is suffering personal financial hardship due to poor economic conditions in the pastoral industry.