Property update: New Bill expands powers for determining rent relief disputes

Sep 4, 2020

Following Premier Andrew’s announcement on Thursday 20 August, the government has released the COVID-19 Commercial and Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment (extension) Bill 2020.

The Bill:

  • broadens the scope of the Minister for Small Business to make regulations dealing with rent relief disputes; and
  • extends the commercial tenancy relief scheme, which was due to end on 29 September 2020.

Binding orders for rent relief

The Bill introduces greater powers for regulations to be made to deal with rent relief disputes. In particular, to allow for binding orders to be made on landlords to give specified rent relief. Only tenants can apply for binding orders.

Currently, landlords and tenants can apply to the Victorian Small Business Commission (VSBC) for mediation of a rent relief dispute.

While the proposed regulations are not yet available, we expect that the VSBC will be responsible for determining and making such binding orders on landlords.  

The Bill also enables regulation to be made with respect to:

  • the application process for tenants to apply for binding orders (and what must be included in such an application);
  • the preconditions for rent relief applications;
  • the processes for dealing with and deciding rent relief applications, including specifying criteria;
  • specifying enforcement of binding orders in the case of non-compliance, including preconditions before proceeding to VCAT; and
  • the admissibility in evidence in a proceeding VCAT or a court of specified material relating to mediation.

Extension of commercial tenancy relief scheme

Although the Bill extends the expiry date to 26 April 2021, we understand that, and consistent with previous announcements, the extension of the commercial tenancy relief scheme will only be to 31 December 2020.

In conclusion

Where previously the regulations only provided for mediation of rent relief disputes with the VSBC, this Bill expands the regulations’ scope to set a mechanism for assessing, deciding and making binding orders in such rent relief disputes. We expect the VSBC will continue to play a key role in this process.

We will continue to keep you informed on future developments, including when the new regulations are released.

More information

If you require advice or assistance on how this may impact you, please contact Morgan Scholz, Head of Property, on (03) 8600 8890 or mscholz@kcllaw.com.au, Mark Yaskewych, Principal Lawyer, on (03) 8600 8830 or myaskewych@kcllaw.com.au, or Geoff Kliger, Senior Special Counsel, on (03) 8600 8878 or gkliger@kcllaw.com.au.

Author

This Property update was authored by Morgan Scholz, Head of Property. 

Note: This update is a guide only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.

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