The Victorian government recently announced a series of measures boosting residential and commercial landlord and tenant support amid a resurgence of coronavirus cases in the state.

One of the biggest changes included in the announcement was the extension of the moratorium on rental evictions and lease increases until the end of the year, which is a welcome relief for cash-strapped residential tenants impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Additionally, commercial landlords will now be required to provide rent relief in proportion to the drop in turnover being experienced by eligible tenants.

However, the state government also unveiled several other relief measures, ranging from land tax discounts to supporting services to assist tenants in need. This has left many thinking of applying for the grants with more questions than answers.

Here are five of the biggest questions lingering on the minds of many landlords and tenants:

1. What exactly were the measures announced?

Apart from the extension on the temporary ban on evictions and rental increases, the Victorian government revealed several relief measures for renters and property owners. These are:

  • Increasing rent relief grant payments from $2,000 to $3,000 for eligible residential tenants
  • Raising land tax discount from 25% to 50% for eligible landlords
  • Providing 25% land tax discount for owner-occupiers with annual turnovers below $50m
  • Creating a commercial landlord hardship fund, which would pay $3,000 per tenancy for small commercial landlords
  • Releasing $600,000 in funding for advocacy groups that work with vulnerable tenants

2. Who is eligible for the rent relief grant?

The rent relief grant is designed for residential tenants in Victoria who are struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic and have, or will shortly have, a bond registered with the Victorian Residential Tenancies Bond Authority.

To be eligible, tenants must have registered a reduced rental agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV). However, deferral of rent is not considered rental reduction and does meet the eligibility criteria, according to the Housing Victoria website. Applicants should also have a weekly household income not exceeding $1,903 and have less than in $5000 in savings, and still be paying at least 30% of their income in rent.

There are no citizenship or permanent residency requirements. Casual workers on holiday and working visas, international students, skilled visa holders, seasonal workers, New Zealand citizens, and all refugee and temporary protection visa holders are eligible for the grant.

Residents of multi-occupancy houses with a shared lease can qualify for the grant if they are one of the lease holders in the house and meet the eligibility criteria. They may qualify for a grant that represents their portion of the rent.

3. How can tenants avail of the $3,000 grant?

Applications for the one-off rent relief grant is open until 31 December. However, the applications can only be processed if the tenants have reached a voluntary agreement for a rent reduction with their landlords. Once tenants have lodged their new agreements with CAV, they can apply for the grant online via the Victorian government website. Tenants can also complete a mediation process through the department.

The grant will go directly to the landlord and will be considered a lease payment.

Tenants who already received a $2,000 grant from the previous program can only qualify for an additional $1,000 if they continue to meet the eligibility criteria.

4. How does the funding for small commercial landlords work?

The Commercial Landlord Hardship Fund or what Business Victoria calls the Fund was created to assist small, private individual and joint-owner landlords who may not have the financial capacity to provide rent reduction to their tenants. Eligible landlords may receive $3,000 per tenancy from the state government to compensate for the financial hardship they are experiencing.

Landlords must have provided the tenant with at least 30% reduction from the total rent, of which, half or more is in the form of a waiver for the equivalent of a minimum three-month period. They can claim against rent waivers that have occurred three months prior to and after the commencement of the fund on 21 August.

The fund will be open for applications for eight weeks from the commencement date or until funds are exhausted, whichever comes first, Business Victoria’s website says.

5. Who is eligible for the land tax discount?

According to the State Revenue Office’s website, landlords of residential and commercial properties who provide a 50% or more outright rent waiver of at least three months’ rent to eligible tenants can claim a 50% waiver of the property’s 2020 land tax and defer payment of the remaining tax to 31 March 2021.

Owner-occupiers of commercial properties can obtain a 25% waiver of the property’s 2020 land tax and payment of the remaining tax can be deferred to 31 March 2021 if their businesses meet the conditions in either of these two categories:

1. For a licensed pub, club, or restaurant under a general, full club or on-premises liquor licence:

  • At the premises level, annual turnover was not greater than $50m in either the 2018-19 or 2019-20 financial year
  • Turnover at that premises has reduced by at least 30% since March

2. For other businesses:

  • Annual aggregated turnover was not greater than $50m in either the 2018-19 or 2019-20 financial year
  • Eligible for and participating in the government’s JobKeeper payment