Answers to frequently asked questions about renting, strata, auctions, and open homes during COVID-19.
The NSW Government has announced a relaxing of restrictions on auctions and home inspections for renting and buying property. The new arrangements started on 15 May 2020.
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The NSW Government has introduced a six month moratorium on evictions for people impacted by rental distress due to COVID-19.
The new measures include:
- a 60 day stop on new termination notices and termination applications to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal) due to rental arrears, where the tenant is impacted by COVID-19
- extended notice periods for certain other lease termination reasons.
For more information read:
Routine property management inspections
Property agents should consider postponing routine property management tenancy inspections or conducting digital inspections to minimise contact.
Repairs and maintenance
If you have concerns, talk to your agent or landlord to see if non-essential repairs, maintenance, or routine tenancy inspections can be postponed.
A landlord, agent or anyone acting on their behalf can only enter the property without the tenant’s consent under certain circumstances, and if appropriate notice is provided.
Visit Landlord access and entry to a rental property for information about serving notice to tenants and notice periods.
Urgent repairs that ensure the property meets minimum health and safety standards must proceed.
Talk to your agent or landlord, as many real estate agencies have protocols in place to manage the current situation.
If your rented premises are for sale, please see Auctions and Open Homes.
Depending on your circumstances you may be eligible for Centrelink assistance.
If you fall behind with rent and can't pay the overdue amount, talk to your landlord or agent immediately.
Explain the situation and try to negotiate a repayment plan in instalments.
Repayment plans should be made in writing and signed by both the tenant and landlord to avoid any misunderstanding.
It’s important you don’t ignore the problem, as unpaid rent is a breach of your tenancy agreement.
Deposits and tenancy agreements
If you've paid a holding deposit but not yet signed a tenancy agreement, the landlord or agent can keep the holding deposit if you decide not to go ahead with the tenancy.
They can also keep the holding deposit if you don’t take steps to agree to the tenancy within 7 days from when you paid the holding fee.
We suggest contacting your landlord or agent to explain your situation and discuss the possibility of a refund.
If you've already signed the tenancy agreement, you need to start paying rent from the start date on the agreement, unless you and the landlord or agent agree to change the start date.
If you signed the tenancy agreement and decide not to go ahead with renting the property, you need to give your landlord or agent written notice of your decision to end the tenancy.
When a tenant signs a fixed term agreement, this is a commitment to stay for the full term. Ending the agreement early may have costs.
Visit ending a tenancy for more information.
Where to get help
For more help and information, Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Services provide free, independent advice to tenants throughout New South Wales.
You can also contact LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529 for legal information.
Alternatively, you may wish to obtain independent legal advice.
Auctions and open homes
Agents who sell or lease property must have a COVID Safety Plan in place addressing all checklist items on the NSW Government COVID Safe website. When conducting an auction, open house or other inspection or viewing of property, agents must comply with this plan.
Auctions where bidders and other observers attend in person can be conducted for real property, fibre and for food supply, which includes livestock and crops.
Physical distancing measures and good hygiene requirements apply.
The health fundamentals during COVID-19 are hand hygiene, physical distancing and record keeping.
During an inspection or auction agents need to at least:
- ensure physical distancing of at least 1.5m between each person
- promote good hygiene and provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser at all entry and exit points to the property being inspected, auction venues, and offices if the property is currently rented to someone else, clean high-touch surfaces such as cupboards and door handles after the inspection
- use digital platforms where possible to avoid physical contact
- keep records of contact details for all people attending open home property inspections and auctions so the person can be easily traced in case an attendee contracts the virus
- ensure people with symptoms of illness (including mild cold and flu like symptoms) don’t enter the property
- actively manage and limit the number of people entering small spaces
- consider extending the time available for open house viewings and inspections
- use outdoor spaces for auctions wherever possible to maximise physical distance between attendees, and consider using cordons where suitable
Further guidance on COVID-19 measures is available at Safe Work Australia.
In-person or in-office negotiations
Agents can conduct in person or in-office negotiations as long as social distancing measures are followed.
However, to minimise the risk of COVID-19, many businesses are still using digital options such as teleconference facilities to enable negotiations other than face-to-face.
Auctioneers and agents can conduct an auction at either the agent’s office or property, if preferred.
If you're an international student renting in Australia, or an Australian studying overseas, here's some important information about how COVID-19 may impact travel, your property, and bond.
I'm you're an international student and can't enter Australia because of the COVID-19 travel ban, your landlord or agent can generally keep the holding deposit you've paid if:
- you decide not to go ahead with the tenancy
- don't take the necessary steps to agree to a tenancy by the deadline (7 days from when you paid the holding fee).
If you can’t travel to Australia because of COVID-19, your landlord or agent can’t dispose of your belongings without giving you notice.
It’s best to discuss your personal property with your landlord or agent while you’re ending your agreement.
If you have ended your tenancy agreement but your belongings are still in the property, contact the landlord or agent.
You can negotiate with them to store your things until you return. Usually, this means paying storage costs.
Alternatively, you can arrange for someone you trust to collect your things.
Holding fees and deposits
If you can’t enter Australia because of the COVID-19 travel ban, your landlord or agent can normally keep the holding deposit if you decide not to go ahead with the tenancy or don't take the necessary steps to agree a tenancy by the deadline (7 days from when you paid the holding fee).
A landlord or agent can’t take a bond in advance of you signing the agreement unless the payment is made through Fair Trading using Rental Bonds Online.
Explain your situation to your landlord or agent and negotiate to get your money refunded.
Changing the date for moving into a property
If you’ve already signed the agreement, it will commence from the date specified.
You can only change the start date of the agreement if your landlord or agent agrees in writing.
You will otherwise need to pay rent from the start of the agreement. Not paying rent is a breach of the tenancy agreement and may result in termination.
If you don’t get agreement from your landlord, you can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
As a starting point, we suggest approaching your landlord to see what arrangement you can come to.
Some patience is required as many businesses are having to implement or change policies and processes as the situation evolves.
If you don't receive a response within a reasonable time, or believe you're not being provided with your entitlements, you can lodge a complaint with Fair Trading.