Residential tenants affected by COVID-19
On 24 April 2020, the Northern Territory Parliament passed the Tenancies Legislation Amendment Act 2020. This provides the framework for the Territory’s response to tenancy issues arising as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.
This fact sheet provides an overview of what you should do if you are struggling to pay rent.
Get your documents in order
Put together evidence of your loss of income and the fact that it is COVID-19 related. If you can, try to obtain one of the following:
- a letter from your employer confirming your income has been reduced or you have been let go due to COVID-19; or
- a document stating that you have been approved for the Job Seeker payment.
If you are unable to obtain these documents, there will be a process for you to show other evidence to the Commissioner of Tenancies, who will be able to issue a certificate confirming that you are suffering hardship related to COVID-19. Useful documents may include bank statements or other documents about your income and work, medical certificates where relevant, and statutory declarations.
You will have a limited period of time after you are impacted by COVID-19 hardship to formally raise your situation with your landlord in order to trigger longer periods to pay your rent.
Pay if you can
This period of time will not be a rent holiday. Rent unpaid will be money you owe your landlord. However, if you show your landlord you are in hardship, you will have additional time before the landlord can pursue termination. Visit www.moneysmart.gov.au for COVID-19 financial advice.
Raise your situation with your landlord
Many landlords are keen to help tenants get through this situation.
Talk to your landlord as soon as possible and make them aware of your situation. You could provide them with a copy of this document and the information sheet for landlords.
You have rights too
You do not have to show the landlord all your personal information
It is reasonable for your landlord to ask to see some evidence that you are in financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. Your landlord can ask to see a copy of a letter from your employer (or former employer) explaining your situation, or a copy of your approval for Job Seeker.
If you do not have these documents, you are not required to show more personal documents such as the detail of your bank statements to your landlord. While you can do this if you wish, if you would prefer to maintain your privacy, you will be able to seek a certificate from the Commissioner of Tenancies instead. The Commissioner of Tenancies will need to see evidence that you are in financial hardship.
Your landlord should not be telling you how to manage your money
Your landlord or landlord’s agent should not ask you to access your superannuation or tell you how to manage your money. If this happens contact ASIC for advice.
Your landlord should not be asking you for money in advance
A landlord must not ask you for rent in advance or for additional bond money. These are offences subject to on the spot fines or prosecution, and if landlords behave this way during the emergency period, they are subject to significantly higher penalties. Such behaviour can be reported to the Commissioner of Tenancies.
Your landlord should not harass you
Intimidating or harassing you to leave the premises is an offence. This offence is subject to on the spot fines or prosecution, and if landlords behave this way during the emergency period, they are subject to significantly higher penalties. Such behaviour can be reported to the Commissioner of Tenancies.
- The Law Society of the NT maintains a list of all the Territory’s legal practitioners and may be able to help you identify those who are in your region who can help you. They can be contacted on (08) 8981 5104 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Northern Territory Consumer Affairs is also the Commissioner of Tenancies, and can be contacted as set out below.
What if I would rather leave than end up in debt?
You have to pay your rent if you can. However, if this is not possible, you will be able to apply to the NTCAT to terminate the tenancy on the grounds of hardship. You will need to satisfy the NTCAT that you are in fact in COVID-19 related hardship, or that your physical or psychological health is at risk.
If you need legal advice
You can also seek advice from a lawyer.
- If you are a tenant in the Northern Territory, Darwin Community Legal Service (DCLS) has a Tenants' Advice Service. Visit the Darwin Community Legal Service website or ring free call 1800 812 953.
- If you or your family are Aboriginal, you can ring the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) on free call 1800 898 251.