Extended boarding house eviction notice periods due to COVID-19

The NSW government has introduced measures to help boarding house residents, owners and operators to work together during the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures were due to end on 15 October 2020. On 23 September 2020, the NSW Government announced they have extended these measures until 26 March 2021.

Termination notice periods for boarding house residents who are impacted by COVID-19 and in fee arrears have been extended to:

  • 60 days’ notice, if the proprietor has participated in a formal negotiation process in good faith with the resident but no agreement could be reached because the resident did not participate in the process in good faith, or
  • six months’ notice.

This will allow time for proprietors and residents to negotiate possible fee reductions.

What does this mean for residents and proprietors?

Proprietors and residents should both attempt to negotiate a reduction in occupancy fees in good faith.

If a boarding house proprietor wants to end an arrangement with a resident who hasn’t paid their occupancy fees as they are impacted by COVID-19, the proprietor must give the resident:

  • 60 days’ notice – if the proprietor can show they’ve attempted to reach an agreement in good faith with the resident but the resident did not participate in the process in good faith, or
  • six months’ notice.

All residents who are not impacted by COVID-19 are expected to honour their existing occupancy agreements, including paying all occupancy fees in full.

Notice periods for other termination reasons are also now 90 days except where the resident:

  • hasn’t paid occupancy fees and isn’t impacted by COVID-19
  • has intentionally or recklessly caused or allowed serious damage to the premises or other residents’ property
  • is using the premises for illegal purposes
  • has threatened, abused, intimidated or harassed other residents or the proprietor.

Eligibility for extended notices due to fee arrears

For the extended termination notice periods for fee arrears to apply, the resident must have been financially impacted by COVID-19, meaning:

  • they have lost employment or income (or had a reduction in employment or income) due to COVID-19, or
  • they have had to stop working or reduce work hours due to illness with COVID-19 or due to COVID-19 carer responsibilities for a family member, and
  • the above factors have resulted in the resident’s income (inclusive of any government assistance) reducing by 25% or more.

The resident can provide simple documents to show that they are impacted by COVID-19, for example:

  • proof of temporary or permanent job loss (e.g. employer separation letter, evidence of reduced shifts)
  • proof of previous employment income and current income (e.g. bank statement, payslip)
  • proof of Government income support payments or applications made (e.g. statement or advice/acknowledgement from Centrelink).

When determining whether a resident’s income has reduced by 25%, income received is after tax.

Repayment of arrears

Agreed fee reductions or arrears will not be automatically waived. Repayment is subject to negotiation between the resident and proprietor.

Dispute resolution

If a proprietor and resident cannot reach an agreement, Fair Trading’s dispute resolution process can help.

Apply for assistance by completing the Tenancy Complaint Form.

Depending on the circumstances and number of requests for dispute resolution assistance, Fair Trading aims to assist parties reach an agreement within 14 days.

This is however dependent on both parties providing requested information in a timely manner.

Example scenarios

Reduced income together with income support resulting in less than 25% loss of income

A resident pays $300 per week in boarding house occupancy fees.

The resident earned $800 per week but has lost their job due to COVID-19 Public Health Order business closures.

The resident now receives income support of around $1,500 per fortnight, or $750 per week, paid through their employer. *

The resident’s lost income is $50 per week, which is less than 25% of the resident’s original income.

Result: No. The extended eviction period due to not paying occupancy fees or other charges doesn’t apply.

Reduced income together with income support resulting in more than 25% loss of income

A resident pays $300 per week in boarding house occupancy fees.

The resident earned $800 per week but has lost their job due to business closures.

The resident is now receiving a government payment of around $1,100 per fortnight, or $550 per week.*

The resident’s lost income is $250, which is more than 30% of their original income.

Result: Yes. The extended eviction period due to not paying occupancy fees or other charges applies.

* Government payments are example amounts only

Visit the Australian Government Treasury for more information on payments.

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