COVID-19 and the rental market on Sydney’s Upper North Shore

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives, so it’s only natural that it’s also having an impact on the rental market. Here’s what you need to know.

Landlords are worried about leasing their investment properties during the COVID-19 pandemic and tenants are worried about their security during these uncertain times.

We answer some common questions about how COVID-19 impacts on rentals on Sydney’s Upper North Shore.

But before we do, it’s important to note what’s stayed the same: as a general rule, tenants, landlords and property managers still have the same rights and responsibilities as always under the NSW Residential Tenancy Laws. 

Q: Do tenants still have to pay rent during COVID-19? 

There’s been some confusion over the question of tenants rent payments during COVID-19.

The NSW state government, like other states and territories, has agreed to a six-month moratorium on evicting tenants suffering financial distress due to COVID-19. This ends in September 2020.

This doesn’t mean that all tenants are exempt from paying rent right now. Lease contracts still need to be honoured but tenants can look to delay or reduce payments without penalty where they’ve been financially impacted by the Coronavirus. Property managers have also been told not to ‘blacklist’ tenants who fall behind on rent because of COVID-19.

To be eligible for this, a tenant must have lost 25% or more of their income due to COVID-19. Landlords who applied to evict a tenant before the new rule came into effect will need to wait 60 days for their applications to be processed.

The rent will accrue during the moratorium and the tenant will eventually have to pay the money back.

Meanwhile, where a tenant’s capacity to repay is affected, the government is encouraging tenants, landlords and real estate agents to talk to each other and negotiate in the first instance

Tenants suffering financial hardship or unemployment may be able to access a range of existing and new Government initiatives via Centrelink.

Q: Is it possible to rent a residential property during COVID-19?

Yes, it’s still possible to advertise a property, search for a new home, sign a lease, and move home during COVID-19. Moving house is considered a ‘reasonable excuse’ for leaving home and you won’t be breaching any NSW Public Health Order by doing so.

Q: What has changed for rentals as a result of COVID-19?

One of the main things that’s changed is the way we show rental properties. Due to social distancing rules, open home inspections need to be conducted one-on-one and by appointment.

We’re taking our responsibility to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff, tenants and landlords seriously and you can read our full property inspection policy here.

Because we can’t hold public open homes, it’s more important than ever that landlords invest in good advertising and marketing for their investment property to attract quality tenants. This includes good photography, and video or virtual tours where appropriate.

It means we need to be a little more flexible with the way we rent properties. This has included allowing tenants to pre-apply for properties when they can, delaying inspections when someone is sick or isolating or allowing leases to be signed electronically to minimise contact.

Q: What about maintenance and repairs?

Repairs and maintenance can still take place.

We’ll be prioritising any urgent repairs. Tradespeople are still able to attend to maintenance and repair issues and crucial things like smoke detectors should definitely not be ignored during COVID-19.

Q: How will we carry out rental inspections?

Right now, most people who can work from home are doing just that. This includes many tenants and many of our staff. But regular property inspections are still important.

When we can’t conduct an inspection in person, we’ll conduct a virtual inspection using technology such as FaceTime or WhatsApp video or the capabilities built into various real estate apps.

Q: What’s the government doing for landlords?

As part of its residential tenancies package, the NSW State Government announced a $220 million residential relief package for renters and landlords.

This provides for upcoming land tax payments to be deferred for three months. It also provides for a rebate of up to 25%, where a landlord is accommodating a tenant due to financial stress.

Q: What if a tenant needs to self-isolate in the property? 

If a tenant has COVID-19 or is self-isolating at the property, it’s important that they let anyone who may need to visit the property know about this in advance. This could include the property manager, tradespeople, other tenants, the landlord or anyone else who may need to attend the property. The Government has outlined what people self-isolating need to know here. 

Q: How can I contact my property manager? 

We may be working remotely but it’s business as usual for our property managers.

You can contact our property managers by phone or email – just as you usually would. We’re also happy to arrange a time to speak to you if you have any questions or concerns. 

Q: What will happen to the property market as a result of COVID-19? 

If you want to find out how COVID-19 is affecting the sales market on the Upper North Shore, read our article here. 

Want more?

If you’re looking for a home in a great suburb on Sydney’s Upper North Shore contact our team today.

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