New Emergency COVID-19 Leasing Laws

By Raynia Theodore, Principal, and Evelyn Marcou, Senior Associate

The COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 (COVID-19 Bill) has passed through the NSW State Parliament and was assented to on 25 March 2020.

The Bill proposes amendments to a number of leasing laws, in particular the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) and the Retail Leases Act 1994 (NSW).

In summary, the changes to these laws will entitle the responsible Minister to recommend to the Governor that for the purposes of responding to the public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic regulations be made:

  1. Prohibiting a landlord or owner of premises from doing any of the following:
    1. Recovering of possession of premises from a tenant of the premises;
    2. Terminating a lease;
    3. Enforcing another right of the landlord or owner under the relevant Act or any agreement relating to the premises;
  2. Exempting a tenant, or a class of tenants from the operation of a provision of the relevant Act or any agreement relating to the leasing.

The Minister may only recommend to the Governor that regulations be made if:

  1. The NSW Parliament is not currently sitting and is not likely to within 2 weeks after the day the regulations are made; and
  2. In the Minister’s opinion, the regulations are reasonable to protect the health, safety and welfare of tenants under the relevant Act.

The NSW Parliament has agreed to adjourn Parliament until September so this effectively means the Minister can now make recommendations to the Governor that any or all of the above regulations be made.

Interestingly, any regulations made will expire on:

  1. The day that is 6 months after the day on which the regulation commences; or
  2. The earlier day decided by Parliament by resolution of either House of Parliament.

It is expected that other States will follow NSW’s lead. The Tasmanian Parliament is currently debating emergency laws which could protect renters from eviction during the crisis.

These regulations will have a significant impact on the property sector.

For more specific advice in relation to issues impacting landlords and tenants please contact Raynia Theodore on +61 3 8540 0242 or by email at raynia.theodore@mst.com.au or Evelyn Marcou on +61 3 8540 0243 or by email at evelyn.marcou@mst.com.au.