WA tenants are being urged by Consumer Protection to continue to pay their rent unless they are genuinely experiencing severe financial hardship.
Landlords and agents are also encouraged to show compassion and to negotiate with tenants who may have lost their employment as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The agency has receive a number of calls from concerned landlords who claim that their tenant has stopped paying rent even when they are not facing financial difficulty.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Penny Lipscombe is concerned that some tenants may be exploiting the current situation.
“While the national cabinet carefully considers the complex issue of implementing a proposed six-month moratorium on residential tenancy evictions, tenants are reminded that any moratorium will not apply to rental payments,” Ms Lipscombe said.
“There remains a legal obligation on the part of the tenant to pay their rent in accordance with their current lease agreement, but we are looking at ensuring that evictions are not carried out if the tenant no longer has the capacity to pay.
“Tenants should pay what they can – the proposed changes are about allowing time for tenants to get their financial situation sorted out so they can start paying rent again as soon as it is practical to do so.
“It is reasonable for a landlord to ask for proof of termination of employment or other evidence of financial distress, but should not ask to look at copies of bank statements.”
Tenants are reminded that, even if they receive a breach or termination notice from the landlord or agent, there is still a process to follow under current laws before an eviction can take place:
· the issue of breach notice with a fortnight to bring rent up-to-date;
· a termination notice if rent is still outstanding after 14 days;
· an application to the Magistrates Court then needs to be made within 30 days; and
· a Magistrates Court order to evict a tenant and a hearing date cannot be earlier than 21 days after the notice of termination is issued;
· If the Magistrates Court makes an eviction order and the tenant believes they are likely to suffer hardship as a result, the tenant can ask the Magistrate for the order to be suspended for up to 30 days.
“Some tenants may feel that they have to move out immediately when they receive a termination notice from the landlord, but they shouldn’t as evictions can’t be carried out in WA without a court order being issued by a Magistrate,” the Commissioner said.