Following the Mandatory Code of Conduct released by the National Cabinet on 7 April 2020 (Code), the Victorian Parliament passed the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 (Vic) (COVID-19 Bill) to introduce a range of temporary measures to provide urgent relief for commercial tenants in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also contains provisions for residential tenancies and amendments to other Victorian property legislation to allow key functions to continue in an online environment, such as planning applications and local council meetings.
Once the COVID-19 Bill becomes law, the Governor in Council, on recommendation from the Minister for Small Business, can make regulations which:
The Minister’s broad power to recommend regulations is limited to only those regulations that the Minister considers reasonably necessary for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When announcing the COVID-19 Bill, the government has said that the regulations to be adopted in Victoria were intended to implement the Code. However, at this time, it is unclear how closely the regulations will follow the Code.
The regulations will only apply to:
The COVID-19 Bill is currently awaiting Royal Assent and will come into effect once the COVID-19 Bill is signed by the Governor.
Once the COVID-19 Bill becomes the law, the emergency period is backdated to commence on 29 March 2020 and continues for a period of 6 months until 29 September 2020.
Where landlords and tenants of an eligible lease are unable to reach agreement, the COVID-19 Bill permits the making of regulations for the resolution of those disputes which may include requiring the parties to participate in a mediation arranged by the Small Business Commission.
The regulations are yet to be released and are not expected to be introduced until next month. As the regulations will set out rent relief and other key aspects from the Code, both landlords and tenants should keep an eye out for our further updates on this issue.
For details of all our COVID-19 tips and updates, visit the Gadens COVID-19 Hub.
Shanna Livingstone, Special Counsel
Michael Mercier, Associate