Victorian Government announce new commercial tenancy relief scheme.

4th August 2021
Posted by Harry Croft and Alyce Evans

To date, what rent relief have commercial tenants been entitled to?

Last year, the Victorian Government introduced the commercial tenancy relief scheme, accompanying Act and the Victorian COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) (Commercial Leases and Licences) Regulations 2020 (2020 Regulations).

These measures enabled eligible commercial tenants to request rent relief (in the form of a waiver and rent deferral) from their landlords, providing some support for tenants hit hard by COVID-19 related shutdowns and its impact on businesses.

The 2020 Regulations ended on 28 March 2021 (we last wrote about the end of the scheme here).

Since then, there has been no replacement legislative support in relation to commercial leasing arrangements. This has significantly impacted many commercial tenants, who are still being affected by further COVID-19 lockdowns and trading restrictions (often while paying back rent that was deferred from the previous year under the 2020 Regulations).

Recent updates – The new commercial tenancy rent relief scheme

The Victorian Government recently announced the introduction of a new commercial tenancy relief scheme (via two press releases here and here and the tabling of the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme Bill 2021 (CTRS Bill 2021) which you can read here). This new scheme is likely to bear similarities to the 2020 Regulations.

What will this new commercial tenancy scheme contain?

The CTRS Bill 2021 is ‘enabling legislation’ meaning that until new regulations providing concrete detail of the new scheme are officially brought into effect, we have to rely on the information contained in the two press releases and the CTRS Bill 2021. We understand that the CTRS Bill 2021 is currently being debated in Parliament today (Wednesday 4 August 2021).

Based on the press releases and the CTRS Bill 2021, we can expect the following from the new regulations:

– Further rent relief for eligible commercial tenants (in the form of rent waiver and rent deferral);

– Commercial tenants will be eligible for rent relief where their drop in turnover is greater than 30 per cent (calculated by comparing their turnover for the final quarter of the 2020/21 financial year with turnover from the final quarter of 2018/19);

– For applications under the new scheme where there is already an agreement in place from the 2020 Regulations existing deferred rent repayment requirements will be frozen until 15 January 2022. At that date, the outstanding amount will be added to the deferred rent accrued during the new scheme;

– The protections will be back dated to commence on 28 July 2021; and

– Landlords won’t be able to issue an eviction notice for eligible commercial tenants without obtaining a direction from the Victorian Small Business Commission.

What can tenants do now?

Keep an eye out for the new regulations (we will provide an update too!) and start getting financial evidence together to demonstrate your 30% drop in turnover from the final quarter of the 2020/21 financial year to the final quarter of 2018/19.

If you have any questions related to the new regulations, or would like our help planning for rent relief negotiations or finalising agreements, contact us at hello@studiolegal.com.au.

DISCLAIMER

The information in this article is of a general nature. It does not constitute formal legal advice, and should not be relied on as such. Please see the full disclaimer in our website terms. Please contact Studio Legal if you are seeking advice about a specific legal matter.