Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced a $500-million package aimed to support tenants and landlords in Victoria through the COVID-19 pandemic, with legislation to be introduced to Parliament next week.
The announcement comes following the decision of the national cabinet to introduce a new mandatory code of conduct for commercial tenancies, which has been passed on to the states to legislate.
As such, the Victorian government will “urgently” legislate to ensure that eligible small and medium-sized businesses can be granted rental waivers or deferrals.
Businesses are eligible for measures under the code, so long as they have an annual turnover under $50 million per year and have experienced more than a 30 per cent reduction in turnover due to coronavirus.
Notably, the Victorian legislation is targeted to provide certainty and relief to both commercial and residential tenancies, including provisions for a temporary ban on evictions for residential and commercial tenants, as well as a pause on rental increases for six months.
According to the Premier, evictions will be banned for residential tenancies for six months, except in “some circumstances”, with rental increases banned across commercial and residential tenancies for the same time period.
Further, the Victorian state government will provide $420 million in land tax relief, offering any eligible landlord who has provided rental relief to their tenant with a 25 per cent discount on their land tax, with the remaining land tax deferred until March 2021.
A new Coronavirus Relief Deputy Commissioner will be established at the State Revenue Office to manage these land tax relief claims.
Tenants and landlords who may struggle to negotiate a fair deal in relation to rent reductions throughout the pandemic will be given fast-tracked access to dispute resolution services, either via Consumer Affairs Victoria or the Victoria Small Business Commission in order to mediate a fair outcome, according to the Premier.
The Victorian government will also create an $80-million rental assistance fund for renters facing hardship due to COVID-19.
To be eligible for this assistance, renters will need to have registered their revised agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria or gone through the mediation process, have less than $5,000 in savings and still be paying at least 30 per cent of their income in rent.
Commenting on the Victorian state measures, Mr Andrews said: “More than ever, we need to be working in partnership. Landlords working with tenants. Tenants working with landlords. And the government willing to help those most in need.”
Meanwhile, Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas said the state’s measures are “about supporting tenants, landlords and small businesses” as well as “making sure that everyone can make it to the other side of this pandemic”.
As stipulated under the national cabinet’s mandatory code, the rental relief measures are applicable from 29 March 2020, for a period of six months.