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From the Commissioner

Posted by Knox Economic Development

Victorian small business owners have shown incredible strength and resilience in responding to the challenges and adapting to the changing circumstances of 2020. As we work on getting through to the other side of the pandemic, I encourage you to stay informed. The Coronavirus Victoria website gives you access to important updates including:

  • changes to face masks requirements and return to work for office workers
  • getting the Victorian Government’s free QR code service to register the details of visitors to your workplace – it’s a simple system that helps contact tracers respond quickly if a positive case of coronavirus (COVID-19) is identified at your premises.

Big news for small business tenants is the further extension of the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme. Our website breaks down the information you need to know including:

  • the supports available for eligible tenants from 1 January 2021 to 28 March 2021 including a freeze on evictions and rent increases, and rent relief that matches a tenant's fall in turnover 
  • a change to the definition of an eligible tenant to be SMEs with an annual aggregate turnover under $120m that have had at least a 30 per cent reduction in turnover due to coronavirus, meaning more businesses are now eligible for support
  • how to ask your landlord for rent relief – we’ve created a letter template that you can use to make sure your written request complies with the Scheme's regulations
  • the evidence you must supply to your landlord when asking for rent relief – this is really important, as a landlord is only required to provide rent relief from the date their tenant makes a request to them in writing and supplies this evidence
  • how we can help landlords and tenants to resolve disputes over rent at no cost and walk away with an agreement that they each played an active role in reaching.

The kinds of disputes we're seeing include situations where a tenant has followed the right process for requesting rent relief but hasn't received a response or has been threatened with eviction, and situations where a landlord simply cannot reach a fair agreement with their tenant.

Since the Scheme was introduced back in March 2020, we've responded to a massive 14,685 pandemic-related enquiries. So far 3,679 tenants and landlords have made an application for help to resolve a rent dispute, with our team having finalised 2,059 matters. Of these, 904 were addressed early on and 881 were resolved through our free and impartial mediation service, with a solid success rate of 86.7 per cent.

Other important news – Australia's insolvency laws have changed. In my recent blog, I walk through the new changes and unpack how they'll support small businesses.

I wish you all a safe, healthy, happy and prosperous 2021.

Commissioner Judy O'Connell