Staff at the Gosnells Legal Centre have been kept busy, with more queries on rent and other issues.
A six-month moratorium on evictions for certain commercial tenancies and a mandatory code of conduct regarding negotiations between landlords and tenants passed through WA parliament last week.
Also, residential grants for up $2000 will be available for Western Australians who have lost their jobs on or after March 20.
While some people won’t be eligible for these grants, the Gosnells Legal Centre tenant advocate Joshua Marks said it was concerning that some people were receiving unsolicited financial advice from their property managers.
“Some property managers are suggesting they dip into their superannuation to pay their rent arrears,” he said.
“This unsolicited advice should be reported to Consumer Protection.”
In addition, Mr Marks said the new legislation provided equal support to other accommodation agreements such as boarders, lodgers and shared house and long stay park tenants that are in financial distress as a result of the health crisis.
“They would need to directly discuss with their property managers the difficulties faced with payment of rent and attempt to come to a rent repayment agreement,” he said.
“If a property manager requests evidence proving COVID 19-related hardship, they should
not need to provide more than a written notification of job loss.
“There is no need to provide bank statements or show a lack of savings, it is inappropriate for a property manager to be requesting such documentation.”
Mr Marks also said people who were not eligible for these grants or can’t access JobKeeper may find relief in the new residential tenancy act provisions put in place.
“They should be able to keep their tenancy for the emergency period but will need to make arrangements to pay any accumulated rent owed when they’re able to,” he said.
“Fixed term leases will automatically tick over into periodic leases and periodic leases cannot be terminated using the ‘no-grounds’ provisions, which have been repealed for the duration of the emergency period.
“Tenants who want to break their fixed term leases, can do so during the emergency period with reduced notice requirements and without facing the normal fees associated with breaking a fixed term lease early.
“Rent may not be increased during the emergency period, so if a tenant relies on the new provisions and stays in their home, they should not be racking up an unfair arrears.
Nor will they be charged interest on this debt either.”
Mr Marks also confirmed that a mandatory conciliation process will be introduced by Consumer Protection in May to assist tenants and landlords in avoiding litigation.