Changes to residential tenancies in Tasmania during emergency period (COVID-19)

The following information is to help people understand the changes to residential tenancies with the introduction of the COVID-19 Disease (Emergency Provisions) Act 2020.

Immediate halt to termination by notice to vacate

Any notice to vacate issued by an owner to a tenant is of no effect until 30 June 2020.

This applies to a notice to vacate which has been issued to a tenant, where the tenant is yet to vacate.

Tenants need to continue to pay rent during this period. If a tenant is unable to pay their rent, they should talk to their property owner about a rent reduction.

This measure will be reviewed after 90 days and may be extended.

Other measures put in place during the emergency period

How long are these changes in place for?

The Act changes part of the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 for an 'emergency period'. The emergency period lasts for 120 days from the date the Act. The Minister has the ability to extend the period by 90 days at a time.

Reducing rent by mutual agreement

During the emergency period owners and tenants can come to an agreement to reduce the rent. This agreement should to be:

  • in writing and
  • signed by both parties

Any agreement will be taken to form part of the residential tenancy agreement.

Breaking a lease due to severe hardship

Tenants or owners can apply to break a fixed term lease if its continuation would cause severe hardship.

You can apply to the Residential Tenancy Commissioner (the Commissioner) to have an Order to terminate the agreement in the case of severe COVID-19 related hardship.

This option should be seen as a last resort.  It is best to maintain a positive relationship between owners and tenants. The best way to do this is for owners and tenants to discuss their concerns.

Applying for an Order

If you believe you need to apply for an Order complete an:

The Commissioner will contact the parties and allow them an opportunity to respond to the application. All information will help the Commissioner assess whether an Order should be made.

The Commissioner may make an Order as to whether the continuation of the agreement would cause severe hardship. Once the Commissioner has made a decision, either party has seven days to lodge an appeal with the Magistrates Court of Tasmania .

An Order will take effect on the day after the end of the seven day appeal period.

Delay to evictions due to rent in arrears

There will be a suspension of evictions for tenants relating to rent in arrears. This means during the emergency period:

  • owners will not be able to issue a notice to vacate for rent in arrears
  • a notice to vacate given before the emergency period begins will have no effect if the tenant has not yet vacated.

This will suspend all evictions due to rent arrears, including those currently before the courts.

At the end of the emergency period, a property owner will be able to issue a notice to vacate and recover the rent in arrears, if the tenant is still in breach of their agreement, in the normal way. A property owner will be able to recover any outstanding rent from the tenant’s bond or, in the event the amount exceeds the Bond, through civil proceedings, just as they are able to do now.

This Government's strong advice to tenants is to continue to pay rent where they can afford to as these emergency period amendments do not provide for a rent holiday.

Read more information on ending a lease.

General repairs and maintenance

During the emergency period general repairs and maintenance will not be required to be done. This reduces the need for tradesman to enter rental properties during the emergency period helping to reduce any risk of COVID-19 infection.

There is no change to emergency or urgent repairs as these are necessary to ensure the health and safety of tenants.

Limiting property inspections

Whilst there is an emergency period in place, inspections will be limited to those for:

  • urgent or emergency  repairs
  • other limited circumstances

Other limited circumstance may include, but not be limited to:

  • if the owner believes there is a risk to the health and safety of the tenant, or
  • that not gaining access will result in damage to the premises.

Related information

Updated: 01 Apr 2020