Residential tenancy - Changes to residential tenancies in Tasmania during COVID-19

The Tasmanian Government extended the COVID-19 emergency period for residential tenancies to 31 January 2021. This means some protections initially put in place for residential tenants during the pandemic have now ended.

The following information is to help people understand the changes to residential tenancies with the completion of the emergency period.

Changes to termination by notice to vacate

A notice to vacate issued by an owner to a tenant, that was of no effect during the emergency period, can take effect from 1 February 2021.

Read more information on ending a lease.

Halt to increases in rent

During the Emergency Period between 23 April 2020 and 31 January 2021 rent payable under residential tenancy leases could not be increased.

Generally, to increase rent a party must provide a Notice to Increase rent. There may be some concern about the validity of any notice issued during, or before (but to come into effect during) the emergency period.

To avoid uncertainty:

  • notices to increase rent that were issued during the Emergency period; and
  • notices to increase rent where the increase was due to come into effect during the Emergency period

should be reissued after 31 January 2021.

The Residential Tenancy Fact Sheet – Notices to Increase Rent (PDF, 238.2 KB) provides further information on the impacts of COVID-19 on rent increases.

Reducing rent by mutual agreement

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.

CBOS has developed a rent reduction agreement template (DOCX, 17.7 KB) to help both owners and tenants through this process.

Rent Relief and Landlord Support Funds

The Tasmanian Government is providing rent relief for residential households who rent homes in the private market and who are experiencing housing stress because of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The COVID-19 Rent Relief Fund was established in May 2020 to help tenants and property owners suffering extreme hardship, with support of up to $2,000 or four weeks rent available.

Tenants who have already received financial help to pay their rent can apply for Residential Rental Relief Extra Support payments if their circumstances have not changed.

Landlord Support Funds have also been established for landlords suffering from financial hardship as a result of COVID-19.

  • The Landlord Extra Support Fund is a second or third round of financial help to landlords who have been financially impacted due to tenants being behind in paying rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Residential tenancy landlords, who have previously been approved for landlord support, are eligible to apply for a second or third payment until 31 March 2021.
  • The financial value of the Extra Support payments is up to a further $2000 per payment, per landlord. This payment is in addition to the first round payment for the Landlord Support Fund.

The Support Funds are available until 31 March 2021. Read more on the Rent Relief and Support Funds and how to apply.

Breaking a lease due to severe hardship

Should you have concerns about the continuation of the tenancy agreement, you should first speak with your landlord/tenant.

Tenants and property owners who are experiencing severe COVID-19 related hardship can apply to the Residential Tenancy Commissioner to have the lease terminated.  Applications will be assessed and an Order may be issued by the Commissioner to terminate or continue the lease.

To apply you will need to provide supporting evidence and fill out a form:

General repairs and maintenance

From 1 February 2021 general repairs and maintenance are required to be done in line with the Residential Tenancy Act 1997.

Read more information on repairs and maintenance

Property inspections

The COVID-19 Disease (Emergency Provisions) Act 2020 amended section 56 of the Residential Tenancy Act 1997, relating to ‘right of entry’ for the emergency period. These amendments were in effect until 30 June 2020.

As of 1 July 2020, these restrictions were lifted. Property inspections under section 56 of the Act can now be undertaken.

All inspections must be undertaken in line with the COVID-19 Safe Workplace guideline for the real estate industry(PDF, 127.5 KB) (PDF, 127.5 KB)

COVID-19 Safe Workplace Guideline

The Tasmanian Government's COVID-19 Safe Workplaces Framework supports workplaces as they re-open or expand their business activities during the pandemic, while ensuring the health and safety of all Tasmanians. WorkSafe Tasmania has developed a COVID-19 Safe Workplace guideline for the real estate industry(PDF, 127.5 KB) (PDF, 127.5 KB) to help agents, tenants and property owners to understand their responsibilities as the industry returns to work.

Important:  Rules regarding limited property inspections under section 56 of the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 are still in place

Responsibility of tenants for cleanliness and damage

Tenants are to keep a premises in a reasonable state of cleanliness during the tenancy.  At the end of the tenancy the tenant is to return the premises in as nearly as possible the same condition it was in, at the beginning of the tenancy, or specified on the ingoing condition report, apart from wear and tear.

During the emergency period a tenant is taken not to have failed to comply with this clause, if they cannot meet this requirement due to COVID-19.

For example; if a tenant is moving out of a property and is unable to get a commercial company to clean the carpets because of lockdown restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Updated: 15 Mar 2021