E-Blast: COVID-19 Updates: Some Restrictions Easing and New Support for Renters

Easing of some COVID-19 restrictions from Saturday

Following encouraging signs of fewer cases of COVID-19 over the last week, the Queensland Government has announced that some restrictions will be eased from this Saturday, 2 May 2020.

Social distancing still applies, meaning that you need to make every effort to stay 1.5 metres away from people outside your household. However, the government is giving the green light for some recreational activities and extending the distance you can travel from home.

‪From Saturday, 2 May 2020, you can:

  • Go for a drive within 50km of home
  • Ride a motorbike, jetski or boat for recreation
  • Have a picnic
  • Visit a national park
  • Shop for non-essential items, including clothes

However, there are still strict limits on the number of people you can have with you for these activities. The above activities can only be done with members of the same household or one individual plus any support workers you need. For example, you could go on a picnic with one friend and two support workers at the same time. Support workers are considered “essential” and are not limited.

All rules regarding social gatherings and limits on visitors to homes remain in place. We highlight below guidelines around a couple of specific areas where members and families have have had concerns:

  • people can have up to two family members, or up to two friends, visit them at their residence;
  • people with disability sharing accommodation can still have visitors, but visits might need to be arranged in advance and visits might need to be shorter than usual to make sure everyone can have a visit.
  • people living in shared accommodation should be included in the visit planning

The government will closely watch the numbers of new infections and review the measures after two weeks to see whether more changes are needed.

New supports for renters

Are you struggling to pay your rent as a result of COVID-19? Queensland Parliament passed an important new law last week that could help you.

The new law is temporary and will be in place for the next few months to help people who have lost their jobs or work as a result of COVID-19. The law covers tenants in private rental and social housing.  To assist people to understand the changes the Department of Housing and Public Works has put out a new Residential Tenancies Practice Guide to provide practical information and tips around the changes and impacts on tenants and landlords.

Here is what the changes mean:

  • RENTAL REDUCTIONS: Tenants who have lost 25 per cent or more of their income can now request that their landlords reduce the rent temporarily. This is also available to people who have rent that exceeds 30 per cent of their income. Tenants must be able to provide proof of their lost income. This could mean providing your landlord with pay slips or a termination certificate. It’s a good idea to request a rent reduction in writing. The Department of Housing and Public Works’ has developed a Fact Sheet that includes simple tips on negotiating with landlords and real estate agents.
  • INSPECTIONS AND REPAIRS: Virtual rental inspections will be allowed if you are self-isolating or in quarantine. Access must be given for essential repairs and maintenance.
  • EVICTIONS: Property owners will be prohibited from evicting a tenant, including if their lease expires. Your lease may automatically be extended until September 2020 unless you request otherwise.
  • DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Victims of domestic violence will be able to end tenancies and access bond quickly. Tenants experiencing DV can also change locks without seeking approval.
  • FINANCIAL SUPPORT: Tenants experiencing hardship and unable to access, or who are waiting for financial support, can receive up to $2000

Further information is available at the Department of Housing and Public Works’ website.

Also, our friends at Tenants Queensland have lots of handy information to help renters. Head over to their website for more information: https://tenantsqld.org.au/coronavirus-covid-19-information-2/ or call 1300 744 263 to get some advice.