COVID-19 lockdowns: A state-by-state guide to commercial rent relief

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State governments have announced new rent relief measures for commercial tenancies as businesses emerge from lockdown in Victoria and remain under tight restrictions in Sydney.

Last year, the National Cabinet’s leasing code of conduct was established to set up protections for SMEs and a process for rent relief negotiations between commercial landlords and tenants while the JobKeeper program was in force. 

This year, business support during periods of COVID-19 restrictions is different, with state governments deciding on their own measures. 

SmartCompany has made a list of what support is available in each state.

New South Wales

With Greater Sydney’s lockdown stretching into its second month, the NSW government announced new rent relief measures that will operate alongside its business support payments. 

Businesses that are unable to meet lease commitments from July 13 to August 20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for protections under the Retail and Other Commercial Leases (COVID-19) Regulation 2021. Under the regulation, landlords are not able to lock out or evict tenants without first going to mediation.

There’s also land tax relief for commercial landlords who provide a reduction in rent to their tenants.

Landlords can receive a reduction of up to 100% of land tax payable for 2021. Landlords will be able to receive tax relief if they have a commercial tenant who has an annual turnover of up to $50 million and is eligible for JobSaver payments, the Micro-business COVID-19 Support Grant, or the 2021 COVID-19 NSW Business Grant.

Information about the eligibility criteria is available at Revenue NSW

Victoria

In Victoria, it is now a requirement for commercial landlords to provide rent relief that matches their tenants’ fall in turnover.

This means that if a commercial tenant’s turnover is 40% of pre-pandemic levels, the business owner can only be required to pay 40% of their rent.

The support reintroduces the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme from last year, which will be available to businesses with an annual turnover under $50 million that have experienced a fall in turnover of at least 30% due to coronavirus.

To support landlords, the Victorian government will create an $80 million Landlord Hardship Fund.

The rent relief scheme and fund are part of the jointly funded business support package announced yesterday by the Commonwealth and Victorian governments.

The Victorian Small Business Commissioner (VSBC) can provide free mediation to landlords and tenants who are unable to come to an agreement. 

The VSBC’s website will be updated with more details soon.  

Queensland  South Australia

In Queensland, rent relief measures expired in January but there are still mediation services available to businesses.

As part of its 2021-22 budget, the Queensland government permanently established the Queensland Small Business Commissioner (QSBC).

A key role of the QSBC is to provide dispute assistance and mediation services for businesses and their landlords until September 30 2021.

South Australia

In South Australia, rent relief measures and land tax relief in response to COVID-19 expired between January and April 2021.

The South Australian government did not reintroduce rental relief measures in response to its most recent lockdown in July. 

From January, rules about disputes relating to retail and commercial leases reverted to the Retail and Commercial Leases Act 1995 and Retail and Commercial Leases Regulations 2010. This means that breaches of the terms of a lease after January may be dealt with using normal enforcement measures, such as eviction.

The Office of the South Australian Small Business Commissioner is able to assist businesses that are unable to resolve disputes with their landlords. 

Western Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania

No new commercial rent relief measures have been established in Western Australia the Northern Territory or Tasmania since the National Cabinet’s code of conduct expired earlier this year.

Each state, however, has assistance services for businesses that are unable to resolve disputes with their landlords.

Business in Western Australia can contact the Western Australian Small Business Development Corporation. Businesses in the Northern Territory can contact NT Consumer Affairs, and Tasmanian businesses can contact Consumer Building and Occupational Services.

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