Retailers welcome small business rent relief in Victoria. Targeted support still needed

Saturday 15 January 2022


Following advocacy around the reintroduction of rent relief for small business, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has welcomed the extension of the Victorian Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme announced today. The move follows the extension of a similar scheme in NSW last week and the ARA has called for remaining states and territories to follow suit as retailers enter unchartered territory with the devastating impact of Omicron and the impacts of rising supply chain costs and staff shortages.


Under the Victorian Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme, rent negotiation rights have been extended in Victoria through to 15 March for businesses with an annual turnover of up to $10 million, a reduction from the $50 million turnover provision previously in place. Other provisions in the scheme will continue with rent relief mandated in proportion to a business’ decline in turnover.


Yesterday, NSW formalised it’s two-month extension of the leasing code of conduct for businesses with turnover of less than $5 million. Other codes of conduct have now expired around the country, leaving small businesses vulnerable to significant cashflow challenges in the first quarter.


ARA CEO Paul Zahra said given the widescale impacts of Omicron, we would like to see this extended to small businesses in every state and territory with a threshold of up to $50 million as was previously in place.


“We’ve entered unchartered territory with Omicron with small businesses struggling to keep their doors open due to tens of thousands of daily staff isolations and ever-rising supply chain costs. This is taking an enormous toll on the retail workforce and small businesses who’ve had to limit their trading hours or close altogether,” Mr Zahra said.


“Rent is a significant pain point for small businesses, and we thank the Victorian government on its leadership during this difficult period. Victoria has consistently offered these leasing protections through the pandemic and that has saved the lives of many hundreds of small businesses. Whilst we would like to see the scheme restored to its original 50 million turnover level, this measure will certainly go a long way in helping small businesses survive.


“We have not seen the pandemic impact the sector on this scale and for the first-time retailers are having to navigate these impacts with almost no support from governments. It’s clear that the impacts of Omicron will be ongoing and that targeted support packages will be needed from governments to support small businesses through this unprecedented challenge.”


STATUS OF SMALL BUSINESS RENT RELIEF AROUND AUSTRALIA

Jurisdiction

Date of program expiry

Current status/ LINK to scheme details

NSW

15-Mar-22

Extended – reduced to $5m turnover link

VIC

15-Jan-22

Extended – reduced to $10m turnover link – Vic announcement link

QLD

31-Dec-20

Expired link

WA

28-Mar-21

Expired link

SA

4-Jan-21

Expired link

ACT

31-Dec-21

Expired link

NT

Nil

N/A – Tenants, landlords encouraged to negotiate in good faith

TAS

1-Dec-20

Expired link

The ARA said National Cabinet’s decision last week to allow foreign students to work extra hours is a positive step along with the extension of close contact isolation exemptions to a wider range of industries.


“Allowing foreign students to work extra hours is a positive step, but we need to get more people back to work sooner where it is safe to do so. We welcome the easing of close contact isolation requirements for essential workers along the food supply chain but we’d like to see these exemptions expanded across the supply chain and the broader retail sector to help reduce stockouts and staffing shortages,” Mr Zahra said.


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