Accommodation and COVID-19 (FAQs)

UPDATE: New laws in Queensland are in effect since 29 March 2020.
Information on this page has been updated to reflect these changes.

(If you have a question and it is not covered below, please email accommodation@qut.edu.au)

Last updated: 27 April 2020


How do the new rental laws in Queensland (related to COVID-19) affect me?

  • Key points about the changes:
    • From 29 March 2020, tenants in Queensland are encouraged to negotiate with their landlords to reduce their rent if they cannot continue to pay their rent (financial hardship) due to COVID-19

    • "Financial hardship" for this case means :
      • your income was reduced by 25% or more
        OR
      • your payable rent is 30% or more of your income

    • Additionally, one of the following must apply to you too:
      • one or more tenants or residents are afflicted by COVID-19
      • they have been prevented from returning to Australia
      • they are subject to a public health direction to stay at a place
      • a public health direction has closed their employment or restricted their employer’s trade or business
      • they are self-isolating because they or a member of their household or a someone they are a primary carer for is a vulnerable person
      • they are unable to work because of a travel restriction

    • If you are in financial hardship due to COVID-19, you cannot be evicted or listed in a tenancy database for rent arrears (owing rent) 

    • Break lease fees are capped (1 week's rent max) if the following are also true:
      • your income was reduced by 75% or more
        AND
      • you have less than $5000 of savings

    • If you are on a fixed term agreement that is going to end during this crisis, it will be extended to 30 September 2020 unless you request a shorter term 

    • Find out about the additional details at the Queensland Government's Rental Hub

  • If you are not sure how to start negotiations with your landlord, you can use this template email (edit to match your specific story) from Tenants QLD

  • If you are unable to communicate or negotiate with your landlord/rental agent, you will need to apply for conciliation through the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA)
  • If your reasons for breaking your lease early are not related to financial hardship, you can still apply to the Tribunal (QCAT) for a legal ruling in your favour.

Sources:
Queensland Government's Residential Rental Hub (COVID-19)
Tenants QLD COVID-19 Information
RTA Responds (COVID-19)

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Due to COVID-19, I have to return home now or very soon. What do I need to do about my accommodation?

NOTE: Slight variations may apply, depending on the date you left Australia

 1. Inform your landlord that you have to leave Australia due to COVID-19
  • An email is usually sufficient

  • This is usually the time to negotiate with the landlord, if possible
    • It could be a mutual agreement to end the contract
    • A compromise may be worked out where by you pay some of the rent that you were originally going to pay
    • You can even offer that the landlord take all your rental bond, in exchange for letting you end your lease early, without further financial responsibility

  • If you and your landlord are able to mutually agree to terminate your rental contract
  • If you are unable to mutually agree, continue with the following steps

 2. Complete the steps required to record the state of your
     property/room when you leave
  • Notice of intention to leave
    • Depending on your rental contract type, use one of the following forms 
      • If you signed a General Tenancy Agreement (Form 18a) - usually when you rent a whole apartment/house, you will need to use the Notice of Intention to leave (Form 13) document
      • If you signed a Rooming Agreement (Form R18) - usually when you rent a room in student accommodation, you will need to use the Resident leaving (Form R13) document

    • Complete the form and indicate the date you are leaving
      • Make sure to include the actual date you left the property

    • Email this form to your landlord

  • Exit condition report
    • Before you leave, complete the Exit Condition Report (Form 14a) – same form for general tenancy or rooming

    • Take photos of the property and/or your room
      • Even if everything is perfect, take photos anyway; you might need to prove that the property was in good condition when you left
      • You do not need to share these with your landlord unless you want to back up what you wrote in the Exit Condition Report

    • Email a copy of the Entry Condition Report to your landlord

  • Update contact details with the RTA
    • Call or email the RTA and update your contact details
      • This is in relation to your Rental Bond
      • The RTA will need to contact you for all Rental Bond related issues
      • If you are uncontactable, they will release the money to the applicant (usually your ex-landlord) after 14 days.

 3. Apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)
     for a Tribunal Ruling to terminate your contract early

UPDATE: If you left or plan to leave Australia after 29 March 2020, please see the answers to How do the new rental laws in Queensland (related to COVID-19) affect me? instead

 4. Further assistance
  • QUT’s Accommodation office is able to support you through the steps above but if you prefer to seek help from a Queensland Government funded community support service, we can refer you to Tenants Queensland (https://tenantsqld.org.au/) directly

  • Applying for your rental bond refund
    If QCAT’s ruling allows you to end your lease early legally, it will include a date after which your contract will be considered ended.
    Once this date arrives, head to the RTA website and complete the process for Rental Bond refunds.

    You can find out more at https://www.rta.qld.gov.au/Renting/Ending-a-tenancy/Bond-refunds

    We recommend that you perform this step as soon as possible (the last day of your contract OR the last day indicated by a QCAT Ruling).
    This puts you at an advantage when dealing with rental bond disputes.

To find any of the forms/documents mentioned above, please head over to the relevant websites and search.
RTA Forms for General Tenancies
RTA Forms for Rooming Agreements
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)

If you have any further questions, please email accommodation@qut.edu.au 

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I signed a rental contract but I can no longer enter Australia because of COVID-19. How can I cancel my rental contract?

If you are unable to travel due to the Australian Government's travel restrictions, it is not your fault that you can no longer stay at your accommodation and you have the right to ask for your rental contract to be terminated.

  1. The first step is to contact your landlord and update them on your situation. Inform them that you are no longer able to arrive in Australia and that you want to terminate your rental agreement with them.

  2. Some landlords are going to be understanding and will allow you to terminate your rental contract. Discuss what you have to do to complete the paperwork involved. Always remember get all agreements in writing (email is ok).

  3. If your landlord insists that you still have to fulfil the contract and pay rent, despite the situation, you can apply to QCAT for "Excessive Hardship" by following the instructions in Step 3 and Step 4 of this other question.

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I am employed casually and I am about to lose my income because of COVID-19. I will not be able to pay the rent for my accommodation very soon. What can I do?

It’s always best to see if you can make an agreement to catch up with your rent before any action is taken by the lessor. If you reach an agreement, don’t forget to put it in writing. When you rent a property, you are required to pay the rent on time in accordance with the agreement.

If you’re affected by the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis you may wish to seek additional financial assistance from Centrelink. Additionally if you require assistance paying your electricity bill you may try approaching your electricity retailer for a payment plan or seek assistance through the Home Energy Assistance Scheme for an emergency payment. 

Please keep in mind that if you fail to pay rent, it may be considered a breach of your tenancy agreement. You may request an agreement from your lessor to not pay rent for a period of time due to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.

—Tenants QLD, Factsheets for COVID-19

Source: Factsheet from Tenants QLD

Financial Assistance

What if I do not qualify for any of the above?


UPDATE: After 29 March 2020, please see the answers to How do the new rental laws in Queensland (related to COVID-19) affect me? instead

In severe circumstances, you might even be able to apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to have your rental contract terminated due to "Excessive Hardship". QCAT will evaluate your circumstances and decide if you can be legally "released" from your rental obligations.

You can also contact the QUT Accommodation Office for more information and assistance.

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I am currently in self-isolation for 14 days. How can I get food and other items if I cannot leave my accommodation?

Your current student Accommodation Provider
If you are staying with a student accommodation provider, it might already have a plan or arrangements in place for you to get access to these items.

Please contact them to find out more.

Arranging your own food and groceries
If you need to buy your own food and other items, some of these options below might be suitable.

Food
You can order food and have them delivered to you by using one of the various food delivery services in Brisbane.

Some of these are:


Groceries and everyday items
Supermarkets in Brisbane offer home delivery for groceries and daily items.
Arrangements can be made for people in self-isolation.

Some of these are:

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Should I be aware of any Scams online?

Yes.
There have been concerns of recent scams targeting international students. 

Be aware of the different type of scams. This include attempts to gain your personal information, buying or selling, fake charities, threats and extortion, and unexpected money. 

Read more about it at https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams

If you believe that you are being targeted by this kind of activity or have information for police:
Contact Police Link on 131 444 or
Report it to SCAMWATCH

You can report information anonymously to Crime Stoppers by calling 1800 333 000 or via http://www.crimestoppersqld.com.au

Sources:
https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/news/warning-on-covid-19-scams 
https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/news/covid-19-coronavirus-scams 

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How do I apply to QCAT for "Excessive Hardship"?

To complete a QCAT Tribunal application
  1. Go to https://www.qcat.qld.gov.au/matter-types/residential-tenancy-disputes

  2. Download QCAT’s Form 2 - Application for minor civil dispute - residential tenancy dispute

  3. Follow these steps to complete the application

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How do I apply to the RTA's free COVID-19 Dispute Resolution?

You can apply to the Residential Tenancies Authority's free COVID-19 Dispute Resolution when:

  • you have a dispute that you want to resolve with your landlord
  • you have been unsuccessful in negotiations with your landlord to get a rent reduction during the COVID-19 crisis (you must be financially affected negatively from COVID-19)
  • you want to end your rental agreement early during the COVID-19 crisis (you must be financially affected negatively from COVID-19)

To apply:

  1. Go to the RTA's COVID-19 Dispute Resolution request page

  2. Download the Dispute resolution request (Form 16a) from the RTA website

  3. Complete the form with the following information:
    • Part 1: Select "Yes" if you have already tried to negotiate with your landlord/rental agent

    • Part 2: If you have left the property already, select "Yes" and fill in the date you left.

    • Part 3: Select "Yes" if you have already applied for the COVID-19 Rental Grant (restrictions apply)

    • Part 4: Select the option that applies to you

    • Part 5: Your rental address and Rental Bond number
      • If you do not have your rental bond number, you can call the RTA to find out

    • Part 6 Tick the box for "Tenant/s" and fill in your personal details
      • If there is more than 1 applicant, fill in their details too

    • Part 7: Select the options that apply to you

    • Part 8: Select "Owner" or "Property manager" or whichever is appropriate. Include their details.

    • Part 9: Select the option that applies to your case
      • Rent if you are asking for a rental reduction
      • Ending or extending a tenancy if you are asking to break your lease
      • Give a brief explanation for what you want in the box provided

    • Part 10: If you received any notices from your landlord, write down the dates you received them

    • Part 11: All applicants need to write their name, sign the form, and write the date they signed the form

  4. Email the form to COVID@rta.qld.gov.au 
    • Do not leave your email subject blank
      For example "Application for Dispute Resolution to break lease (COVID-19)"
    • The RTA will contact you if they need any other information or documents from you


Please go to the RTA's COVID-19 Dispute Resolution page to find out more about the process

Sources:
Queensland Government's Residential Rental Hub - For Renters
Residential Tenancies Authority - COVID-19 Disputes

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