Industry calls time on commercial tenant relief

Victoria’s property sector is advocating against the extension of COVID-19 commercial tenant relief measures, currently due to expire on 31 December 2020.

Property Council Victorian Interim Executive Director, Matthew Kandelaars, says that the measures were designed to help commercial tenants through an unprecedented crisis and are no longer required as we look towards the new year.

“Victoria is on track to ‘COVID normal', with restrictions being steadily lifted and the commercial properties returning to normal operations,” Mr Kandelaars said.

“This new normal means a return towards normal trade and these blanket relief measures are no longer fit for purpose.”

The Victorian Government's Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme was established at the height of the COVID-19 crisis to alleviate financial hardship faced by commercial tenants. Amongst other protections, regulations impose a rent payment waiver or deferral in proportion to a commercial tenants’ reduction in turnover.

Regulations which give the scheme effect have already been extended and are currently due to end on 31 December 2020.

The Property Council says that further blanket exemptions should be replaced with targeted measures to support small businesses in particularly hard hit sectors.

“Victorian landlords have provided billions of dollars of assistance to their tenants, both within and outside this scheme,” Mr Kandelaars said.

“Commercial landlords remain the only sector of the business community that have been legally obligated to provide financial support to other businesses during the COVID period.”

“Yesterday’s announcement from the Government of a clear return to office pathway gives certainty to many businesses about their operations in 2021.”

“However, uncertainty will continue for mum and dad investors if commercial landlords are compelled into a third round of rent relief negotiations.”

The Property Council is encouraging the Government to allow the scheme to conclude but to continue with the structures set up through the Victorian Small Business Commission to mediate and resolve disputes until all current disputes are resolved.  

A final decision on the future of scheme is expected imminently.