Victorian rent relief scheme coming to an end, as new COVID-19 rules come into effect

reopening roadmap victorian rent relief

The popular dining precinct on Degraves Street in Melbourne. Source: Unsplash/Steven Groeneveld.

Victoria’s Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme, introduced as part of the state’s COVID-19 support measures, is coming to an end on Friday, January 15, 2022.

The scheme was designed to help support small to medium commercial tenants with an annual turnover of less than $50 million, and that could prove a decline in turnover of 30% or more due to the pandemic.

Business owners can still apply for the scheme until January 15. More information and application forms can be found here.

This comes as Victorian businesses face new COVID-19 restrictions coming into effect at midnight tonight, including mandates for third vaccination doses, or boosters.

It is also set against an incredibly challenging backdrop for small businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector.

Across the state, hospitality businesses are being forced to close because of a lack of staff. Venues already struggling with a talent shortage are now being forced to close their doors as the staff they do have isolate, having either tested positive themselves or been named as close contacts.

A poll of businesses in Melbourne’s Chapel Street Precinct found that some 35% of staff employed by the area’s 2200 businesses have had COVID-19.

In a statement, General Manager of Chapel Street Precinct Chrissie Maus — who is currently recovering from the virus herself — called for more government support, saying the staff shortage is having “harrowing” consequences for businesses.

“Some have not even opened their doors since Christmas. We need our government to come forward with solutions to rapidly assist.”

The Victorian opposition have called for the commercial rent relief measure to be extended for another three months until April 12, 2022.

“Vibrant small businesses mean vibrant communities and we can’t leave family run cafes, retailers, restaurants and more alone to fall at the final hurdle,” Shadow Minister for Small Business and Business Recovery David Southwick said in a statement.

These are the new restrictions in place in Melbourne:

No dancing allowed

While hospitality and entertainment venues remain open, indoor dance floors must close from 11.59pm on Wednesday night.

There are no new density requirements in place.

Indoor dance floors may remain at weddings, but guests are advised to ‘consider the risks’ and planners and couples advised to place their dance floors outside, if possible.

The Victorian government has also issued a ‘strong recommendation’ that hospitality venues offer seated service.

It also (rather outrageously) recommends that any customers use a rapid antigen test and ensure a negative COVID-19 result before attending any hospitality venue.

Work from home

The state government also ‘strongly recommends’ that office workers work from home if they are able to do so.

New vaccine mandates

As of 11.59pm on Wednesday, workers in ‘key sectors’ including healthcare, aged care, disability, emergency services, correctional facilities, quarantine accommodation and food distribution are required to get a third jab.

Retail supermarket staff are not included in the mandate.

Workplaces are required to record proof of vaccination.

Those workers that are eligible for their third dose as of today have until Saturday, February 12, to get their booster.

Others must get the jab within three-and-a-half months of the cut-off date for their mandatory second dose.

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Martin Scanlon
Martin Scanlon
4 days ago

I am a small business operating inside a University in Melbourne. The University has advised all its students and staff to work from home. To remove the Commercial tenancy relief scheme on 15 January 2022 leaves business like mine exposed to the affects of State govt work from home recommendations and orders and in addition to being financially affected with no customers, I run risk of being in breach of my lease by not opening despite there being no financial justification to do so.
In my situation I was offered rent relief with a condition to reduce the range of products I sell. So if I did not agree to remove a certain product, I would not get rent relief. This is not what the laws were supposed to do but this is the reality for small businesses with larger landlords.

We need financial support but we also need protection from over zealous landlords who may take the opportunity after 15th January 2022 to evict tenants not opening in an opportunistic way. I do support and hope Commercial tenancy relief scheme gets extended to April 12 2022.