The Tasmanian Government has taken unprecedented action to protect Tasmanian tenants and landlords throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’ve always said that as we continue to recover, we will consider providing additional support.
I am pleased to announce that the Tasmanian Government will again extend the COVID-19 Rent Relief Fund and COVID-19 Landlord Support Fund, which were due to end on 31 March 2021 and will now be extended until 30 June 2021, giving both landlords and tenants more assistance and certainty as they recover from hardship caused by the pandemic.
So far under this program we have provided more than $3.65 million of financial support to Tasmanian residential tenants and landlords experiencing severe hardship since May 2020.
We were the first government in Australia to legislate emergency protections for residential tenants and landlords, creating temporary amendments to address the economic impacts of the pandemic on parties to a residential tenancy agreement.
Following the expiry of the emergency period on 31 January 2021, continued support has been offered through the COVID-19 Rent Relief Fund and COVID-19 Landlord Support Fund as a transitional measure, for eligible tenants and landlords suffering significant financial hardship due to COVID-19.
Recent amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 were also made to allow for rent arrears payment orders to be issued by the Residential Tenancy Commissioner on application by a party or parties to a tenancy arrangement, to allow landlords to recoup any remaining rental arrears accrued during the COVID-19 emergency period.
Importantly, the rent arrears payment orders do not override the obligation of a tenant to make regular payments of rent but instead outline a schedule for repayments in addition to normal rent obligations, and to protect them from eviction while complying with the payment order.
A landlord can only increase rent in line with the Residential Tenancy Act 1997.
If a tenant believes a rent increase is unreasonably high, they can apply to the Residential Tenancy Commissioner to have the rent increase reviewed. As of today, 24 March 2020, the Residential Tenancy Commissioner is still considering just five applications for unreasonable rent increases, following the expiry of the emergency period on 31 January, 2021. This is consistent with the same period in the previous year.
Further to our support measures and in order to place further downward pressure on rents, the Premier in his State of the State address last week announced that land tax will be modernised by increasing land tax thresholds to better reflect today’s strong property market, saving Tasmanians hundreds of dollars each year. The land value at which land tax becomes payable will double from $25,000 to $50,000, and the top threshold will also increase by $50,000, from $350,000 to $400,000.
The new land tax thresholds will better reflect today’s strong property market, with around 70,000 landowners to benefit by up to $613 a year, and 4,100 additional landowners to pay no land tax at all in the year ahead.
We anticipate these new arrangements will help ease the need for increases in rental prices, with our strong expectation that landlords seek to pass on these savings to tenants next year.
For more information on the financial assistance available and how to access it, Tasmanians can visit the Consumer, Building and Occupational Services (CBOS) website at www.cbos.tas.gov.au.