There is a lot of uncertainty in the markets and the long-term effect on the economy. One area that has really felt the change is home investors, home buyers and tenants.
Where do the Rental Property Owners Stand?
Keeping everyone safe and housed is an essential part of the government’s Covid-19 responses. But if you own a rental property, as well as your own mortgage, this can be a worrying time.
The proposed JobKeeper payments (to be legislated this week), along with the increased JobSeeker allowance and additional State-based Covid-19 payments, which include rent assistance, will hopefully help more tenants maintain their ability to meet their rent commitments through the next six months.
After chatting with property managers on the front line, this is what we understand the process may look like if a tenant approaches the property manager for rent relief.
Reduction Application Forms
REIQ recommend that the property manager have a Rental Reduction Application Form, which a tenant would be required to complete. This application form would qualify tenants experiencing hardship, set out their circumstances and define what they are requesting, ie whether they are seeking a rent reduction, or advising that they are unable to pay at all.
Property managers, as they do when a rental application is made, would look to verify the information to ensure that the information is accurate and the hardship genuine.
After forms have been completed and assessed, it would be a negotiation process as to how each party can accommodate each other. What is known at this stage is that there is a moratorium on a landlord being able to evict a tenant for rent default. There are likely changes to state laws around this, but these have not yet been passed. So, at this stage, there is no clarity around what you will be legally required to do as a landlord.
Be Proactive and Plan
Without borrowing trouble from tomorrow, what can you do as a rental property owner to prepare for this instance, or at least get some clarity on where you might stand.
- Assess tenant job security: Check back to the rental application correspondence to see what industry your tenant worked in at the time of the application. This should give you an indication of whether they are in a role with a high risk of being stood down. You may get some reassurance that they are in essential roles that can possibly work from home and maybe less vulnerable. With this information, you’ll have a better idea of how urgently you need to plan.
- Check your landlord’s insurance policy: Important to understand whether you are covered for rental default (and check that there is no pandemic exclusion clause). Your general insurance broker or insurer should be able to advise what you may be covered for and what waiting periods or processes may be involved. Bear in mind that there may be some uncertainty here that could take some time to resolve around the moratorium on evictions and the related impact.
- Check the impact of approving relief: Speak with your insurer as to whether negotiating a reduced rental agreement with your tenants will impact on your cover.
- Keep up with the news: Follow Facebook pages like REIQ and Justice Qld to stay up to date with changes as they are announced.
- Be patient: Your property manager will be dealing with a high demand for enquiries and a situation where there are still a lot of unknowns. They are caught in a very difficult position between two parties both facing potential loss due to no fault of their own.
Loan Repayment Relief
If you do find yourself not receiving rent, you may need to approach your lender for relief under the current hardship programs. Most lenders will defer your loan repayments for up to 6 months (although interest will still be charged and capitalised to the loan).
Many Details Still Unknown
A lot of the assistance package announcements have been very high level and general in nature. There are still a lot of grey areas and unknowns, but we will continue to share what we know with you as soon as we have information to hand from reliable sources.
Mandatory code of practice for COMMERCIAL landlords and tenants
What Landlords, Home Investors and Tenants Need To Know
This is a great outcome, a huge relief to folk who have taken on the risk of investing in a rental property, and good news for the long term stability of our rental property market for both tenants and landlords.