National

Rent relief for virus-affected businesses

By AAP Newswire

Small businesses shut down because of the coronavirus will soon have their rent reduced in line with falls in their revenue.

But residential renters will have to wait and see what state and territory governments offer, with an Australia-wide approach not agreed by the national cabinet on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and premiers agreed to a mandatory code of conduct for commercial tenancies to be legislated or regulated across all states and territories.

The rules will apply to commercial tenancies where the tenant or landlord is eligible for the JobKeeper payment and has a turnover of $50 million or less.

Landlords must not evict tenants and will have to lower commercial rents in line with the company's falling revenue.

Tenants must not break the lease under the new rules.

The prime minister has already announced a six-month moratorium on evictions for people in financial distress and hardship.

The tenants' union has argued governments need to step in to facilitate rent relief.

Mr Morrison and the state leaders urged banks and other lenders to support landlords and tenants with "appropriate flexibility".

New figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show 38 per cent of businesses have renegotiated property rent or lease arrangements.

And 24 per cent have arranged to defer loan repayments.

In its own sphere, the federal government has decided to waive rents for all small and medium enterprises and not-for-profit tenants within its owned and leased property across Australia.

The rent relief policy will include a mutual obligation requirement on businesses and not-for-profit tenants to continue to engage their employees through JobKeeper where eligible, and if applicable, provide rent relief to their subtenants.

The plan, which will cost about $7.6 million over six months, is expected to apply to cafes and restaurants, childcare operators, retail and local service providers, community organisations and educational institutions.

The Department of Defence will also be waiving operational charges to the aviation industry.