Victorian Small Business Commissioner Judy O’Connell is calling on small business owners and landlords to negotiate rent in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Many small businesses have lost customers, suffered cashflow issues or have been forced to shut their doors for safety reasons. This, of course, makes paying rent increasingly difficult and, for many, impossible.
O’Connell encourages tenants to first read their lease closely and ensure they understand their rights and obligations. If unsure they should seek legal help or contact the Commission.
“Above all,” she says, “we encourage both the landlord or agent and tenant to communicate in person or in writing as early as possible to help make sure they’re aware of and understand each other’s position.”
If a landlord, agent or tenant is unable to get a response from the other party or reach agreement, the Commission can help resolving disputes. It is also closely monitoring the conduct of landlords to ensure no tenants are unreasonably penalised during this time.
The National Cabinet assembled by Prime Minister Scott Morrison has agreed tenants should not be evicted from their premises during this crisis for non-payment of rent. This is underpinned by a set of principles to help commercial tenancies, which include:
- a short-term, temporary moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent applied across commercial tenancies impacted by severe rental distress due to the coronavirus crisis
- tenants and landlords are encouraged to agree to rent relief or temporary amendments to the lease
- the reduction or waiver of rental payment for a defined period for tenants who are impacted, and
- the ability for tenants to end leases and/or seek mediation or conciliation on the grounds of financial distress.
This moratorium applies nationally, with states and territories working through its implementation.