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REIACT and the Attorney General urge tenants and landlords in Canberra to work together in lockdown

The Real Estate Institute of the Australian Capital Territory (REIACT) has supported Attorney General Shane Rattenbury’s comments that tenants and landlords in Canberra will have to work together amid lockdowns.

REIACT president Hannah Gill supported the suggestion tenants and rental providers will have to pull together to minimise the stress and anxiety people have been facing in Canberra’s private rent sector since the commencement of the lockdown restrictions.

“The Institute are working really hard to ensure that the property management sector has up-to-date information to assist with negotiations between tenants and rental providers during this period,” Ms Gill said.

“We are already seeing notifications from tenants advising their property manager that they are unable to meet their rent commitments due to their loss of income. As was the case during the 2020 lockdown, our members are negotiating the best outcomes for both the tenant and the landlord where possible.”

Ms Gill went on to explain if the lockdown isn’t prolonged, these arrangements can be negotiated by way of establishing repayment plans for arrears.

In some cases, landlords are choosing to reduce the rent to assist their tenants get to the other side of lockdown.

“The Institute has held talks with government on what things may look like if the lockdown is extended and what worked well in 2020 and what didn’t,” Ms Gill said.

“We should also remember that some tenants and landlords are still dealing with the effects of 2020 and there may need to be a different way forward to ensure either party involved in the negotiations isn’t unfairly penalised.

“This lockdown is very different to 2020, as our members are extremely limited in the essential services they can provide under the restrictions and we ask that all parties show patience and understanding as to what our property managers can and can’t do.

“Our members are doing an amazing job enabling negotiations for people to stay in their homes or being able to transition tenancies that are coming to an end or just beginning.

“We encourage tenants who are facing hardship to talk with their property manager at the earliest opportunity to ensure that decisions can be made quickly.”

On Thursday, Chief Minister Andrew Barr noted in a media release that many tenants “who have been financially impacted by public health directions” would be facing many challenges through the extended lockdown.

““The ACT Government will continue to monitor the impacts of this COVID outbreak on landlords and tenants, and consider whether further support is necessary,” Mr Barr said.

Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury also encouraged tenants to help landlords by facilitating virtual inspections where necessary and to be patient if there are delays to repairs, particularly non‐urgent repairs.

“To accommodate the financial and public health implications for the community over this period, landlords are encouraged to consider negotiating temporary rent reduction or a rent arrears payment plan where tenants have been impacted financially by the lockdown,” Mr Rattenbury said, asking both parties to work together.

“COVID-19 has had a financial impact on many Canberrans, and this has created some challenges for tenants making their rent payments. I encourage tenants to communicate with their landlord if they are experiencing financial difficulty and if they can’t make full rent payment.

“Tenants can negotiate a rent repayment plan with landlord if in arrears or negotiate a temporary rent reduction.”

The ACT Government has produced the Renting Book, which provides information to tenants about their rights and obligations under their tenancy agreement. It is available on the Justice and Community Safety website.

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