News

May 01, 2020

Residential Tenancy - Changes to residential tenancies in Tasmania during 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, except:

  • by agreement with the tenant, or
  • if it is a non-fixed term tenancy and the notice to vacate has been served prior to 3 April 2020 because the property is to be sold, or
  • where the notice to vacate has been served due to the tenant using the property for an unlawful purpose, or
  • in the circumstance where it is terminated for severe hardship by the Commissioner.


An owner or tenant can also apply to the Magistrates Court of Tasmania to terminate the agreement as a result of violence or damage caused by wilful behaviour.

This Government’s strong advice to tenants is to continue to pay rent. The emergency period amendments do not provide for a rent holiday.

Notices to vacate can still be issued before 30 June 2020 but will have no effect until after this date.

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

Immediate halt to any increases in rent

Any rent increase that was due to take place between 23 April 2020 and 30 June 2020 will no longer occur.

This includes any rent increase where notice was given prior to 23 April 2020, if that rent increase is yet to take place.

This measure will be reviewed prior to 30 June 2020 and may be extended.

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.

Parties 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.

To find out more about applying for an order, visit our website www.cbos.tas.gov.au

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.

An Order may specify compensation payable by the owner or tenant.  If compensation is awarded, it would weigh up the parties’ circumstances and make an Order based on the rights and burdens of each party.

Severe hardship

Tenants or owners can apply to the Residential Tenancy Commissioner (the Commissioner) for an Order of severe hardship.

There are many factors that may contribute to severe hardship including:

  • family tragedy
  • financial misfortune
  • serious illness
  • impacts of natural disasters and
  • other serious or difficult circumstances.


A household is considered to be impacted by severe COVID-19 related hardship if one or more members of a household paying rent:

  • have lost their job/income or their hours/income have been reduced due to a business closing down or standing down staff during the COVID-19 emergency
  • have stopped working or reduced work hours due to COVID-19 illness or now have carer responsibilities for the household or family members and
  • the above factors have resulted in a 25% or more reduction in household income - this includes any government assistance.

Assessing an application

The Commissioner considers the following when assessing an application for an Order for severe hardship:

  • reasonable living costs
  • liquid assets
  • unavoidable or reasonable expenses that would normally be able to be met outside of the current COVID-19 emergency
  • employer/work forcing a tenant to relocate
  • tenant is suffering severe physical or mental illness and cannot continue with the tenancy.


Examples to support a claim for severe hardship can be found on www.cbos.tas.gov.au

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

Note: this amendment is in place for the emergency period (120 days) and is separate to the Notice issued by the Minister to suspend all notices to vacate for a 90 day period.

There is a suspension of evictions specifically relating to rent in arrears. This means during the emergency period:

  • An owner 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.

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.

At the end of the emergency period, owners 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. Owners 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.

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

The COVID-19 Disease (Emergency Provisions) Act 2020 amends section 56 of the Residential Tenancy Act 1997, relating to ‘right of entry’ for the emergency period.

During this period, an owner or their agent can only undertake inspections for the purposes of section 56(2) or section 56(3)(e). Specifically, this allows for inspection when:

  • it is reasonably believed that the tenant is ill, injured or unable to give permission;
  • denial of immediate access is likely to result in damage to all or part of the premises;
  • there is a risk to the tenant or another person present on the premises;
  • damage has occurred to the premises;
  • it is reasonably believed that the premises have been abandoned; or
  • with 24 hours’ notice to the tenant, to ensure that repairs have been appropriately carried out.


All remaining right of entry clauses do not apply.

This does not prevent inspection by an owner or their agent where it is agreed by the tenant.

These measures will remain in place for the emergency period, or a shorter period if a notice to that effect is given by the Residential Tenancy Commissioner.  The Act allows the period to be shortened if no longer necessary. The Commissioner will take into consideration all necessary advice, including health advice, before shortening the period.

Before undertaking any allowed inspection during the emergency period, agents and owners should consider all current health advice and social distancing requirements, including those to stop open homes and reduce the number of people present at one time.

Responsibility of tenants for cleanliness or 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.

 

*Information sourced from www.cbos.tas.gov.au