COVID-19 Update

Despite the precautionary measures enforced by the state and federal government, the real estate industry continues to operate and evolve accordingly, having managed to rapidly shift to mostly digital practices. 

We understand that it is a seemingly confusing time therefore we have compiled the following guide based on the many questions we have received regarding the impacts of COVID-19 on the property market in Victoria. 

 

Selling/Buying a property during COVID-19

Q1. Are sales agents still contactable? 

Due to Stage 4 restrictions, our offices in Metropolitan Melbourne are now closed and we're working remotely. All of our sales agents will remain easily contactable via phone or email. 

Q2. Is it still possible to sell my property during COVID-19? 

The adjustments made to reduce the spread of COVID-19 may have altered the ways in which we buy and sell however, it is still business as usual. Many committed buyers remain active in the housing market therefore it is still a good time to list your property. 

Q3. Should I wait until COVID-19 has settled before selling my property? 

As mentioned above, the real estate market is still very active! With interest rates at record lows, many are jumping at the opportunity to purchase a home or an investment property. 

We understand that selling property in this climate may seem like a daunting prospect, however, with the help of the right agent and the insightful guidance they will provide, it is a very achievable goal. 

Q4. Can I still appraise my property during COVID-19? 

In-person appraisals are not permitted in Metropolitan Melbourne during Stage 4 restrictions. Alternatively, we can conduct the appraisal virtually via video conference. 

Q5. How can buyers inspect my property? 

In-person inspections are not permitted in Metropolitan Melbourne during Stage 4 restrictions. Alternatively, we offer virtual inspections (for most properties) which will provide a more in-depth look at the property. 

Q6. How do virtual inspections work? 

Virtual inspections allow buyers to digitally tour a property from the safety of their own home. Our agents will provide pre-filmed video walkthroughs (for most properties) which will be made available upon request. 

Q7. Are all methods of sale still available to sell my property? 

If you wish to list your property for sale, you will still have access to the three main methods of sale: by auction, by private treaty or by expression of interest (EOI). That being said, face-to-face auctions have been banned across Metropolitan Melbourne, auctions will only be held online. 

Virtual auctions are much the same as in-person auctions, however, offer buyers the option to participate and bid online remotely from their phone, tablet or computer.

As the seller, you will be able to log into the virtual auction platform to follow the interactive bidding in real-time.  

Q8. Should I wait until COVID-19 has settled before buying a property? 

Due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected that some buyers may be reluctant to go forth with a property purchase. As a result, there may be less competition from other buyers. Additionally, some sellers may be more open to price negotiation due to their urgency to sell. Buyers can also benefit from interest rates being at record lows, therefore if you are financially stable, now may be an ideal time to buy. 

Q9. How can I make an offer on a property I would like to buy? 

If you wish to make an offer on a property or start negotiations with a seller, you can do it the exact same way you usually would. The only difference is that most activity during your buying journey will likely happen online and over the phone.

Q10. How will Stage 4 restrictions influence property settlement arrangements? 

Final inspections and key collections (contact-free) are permitted, as well as other important aspects relating to property settlement. These are to be attended by one person only, by private appointment. The agent will require a permit and the buyer or the inspector will need to show evidence of the appointment. No other in-person inspections are permitted. All auctions and property appraisals must be conducted virtually.

Q11. Can I still move during Stage 4 restrictions? 

Those who need to move will be able to do so, remembering curfew hours still apply (9pm-5am), movers will be required to wear a face-covering and practice safe social distancing.

 

Renting/Leasing a property during COVID-19

Q1. Are property managers still contactable? 

Due to Stage 4 restrictions, our offices in Metropolitan Melbourne are now closed and we're working remotely. All of our property managers will remain easily contactable via phone or email. 

Q2. How can prospective tenants inspect my property? 

In-person inspections are not permitted in Metropolitan Melbourne during Stage 4 restrictions. Alternatively, we offer virtual inspections (for most properties) which will provide a more in-depth look at the property. 

Q3. How do virtual inspections work? 

Virtual inspections allow prospective tenants to digitally tour a property from the safety of their own home. Our agents will provide pre-filmed video walkthroughs (for most properties) which will be made available upon request. 

Q4. What if I am struggling to pay my rent due to financial hardship? 

If you are facing financial hardship and are struggling to keep up with rent payments, you should advise both your landlord and property manager as soon as possible. You can request a delayed payment or rent reduction however be advised that the arrangement both parties agree upon should be in writing. 

It is understandable that people are financially nervous at the moment however to ensure those who genuinely need assistance are provided with support, we ask that tenants complete a Rental Assistance Form. This form will ask the tenant to clarify what their current employment situation is and what financial relief subsidiaries they have exhausted. 

Q5. What does the moratorium mean for tenants? 

The moratorium prevents landlords from increasing rent and evicting tenants that are unable to pay rent due to financial distress as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. However, this doesn't mean that late rental payments won't have to be paid after the moratorium ends. This is why it is crucial to always communicate with your property manager and landlord if you are (at risk of) facing hardship. This way, you will be able to work on finding a solution together and prevent the situation from becoming critical. 

Despite the moratorium, we still encourage tenants to continue paying their rent in full until they have reached a written agreement with their landlord (you must lodge this agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria). If an agreement cannot be reached, contact CAV for assistance. 

Q6. Can I be put on a blacklist for not paying rent? 

The landlord cannot list you on a residential tenancy database (blacklist) if you are unable to pay rent because of COVID-19. If the landlord lists you on a tenant database for this reason, you can get the listing removed. 

Q7. Can I break my lease due to severe hardship? 

In cases of severe hardship, you can give your landlord or their agent a 14-day Notice of Intention to Vacate (must be in writing and signed) however if the landlord disagrees with your notice, you can apply to VCAT to end your tenancy early. You will need to provide evidence of the hardship - for example, bank statements, income statements or proof of medical condition. If VCAT grants you the order, the landlord/agent cannot charge you any lease-breaking fees unless VCAT orders they can do so. 

Q8. What is the Victorian Rent Relief Grant? 

The Victorian Government has established an $80 million rental assistance fund to provide rent relief payments of up to $3,000 to tenants experiencing rental hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is paid directly to the tenant’s agent or landlord to contribute to the tenant’s rental payments, under their new rental agreement.

To be eligible for this grant, the tenant must meet the following criteria: 

  • You are currently paying more than 30% of your income in rent. 
  • You have a household income of less than $1,903 per week before tax.
  • You have less than $10,000 in savings (excluding superannuation).
  • You have registered your revised rental agreement with CAV or gone through mediation. 

Your financial circumstances will also need to have been significantly affected by COVID-19 through loss of employment, working hours and/or pay reduced by 20% or more or, as a sole trader, had your business suspended or had your turnover reduced by 20% or more.

Q9. What if urgent repairs need to be undertaken at my property?

Urgent repairs will still be able to be carried out, however tradespeople must abide by strict social distancing and personal hygiene measures to ensure the health and safety of the tenant. 

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, urgent repairs in a rental property include:

  • Burst water service.
  • Blocked or broken toilet system.
  • Serious roof leak.
  • Gas leak.
  • Dangerous electrical fault.
  • Flooding or serious flood damage.
  • Serious storm or fire damage.
  • Failure or breakdown of any essential service or appliance provided by a landlord or agent for hot water, water, cooking, heating, or laundering.
  • Failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply.
  • Any fault or damage in the premises that makes the premises unsafe or insecure.
  • An appliance, fitting or fixture that is not working properly and causes a substantial amount of water to be wasted.
  • A serious fault in a lift or staircase.

Q10. What if general maintenance needs to be undertaken at my property? 

All general maintenance will need to be postponed during Stage 4 restrictions. Tenants will still be required to report all maintenance to their property manager, however it cannot be attended to until the State of Disaster has been lifted.

Q11. What does the moratorium on evictions mean for landlords? 

The moratorium doesn’t mean that tenants receive a get out of jail free card (so to speak). Both tenants and landlords must comply with the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, however given the circumstances, the government is encouraging landlords to be compassionate and show goodwill. If your tenant is experiencing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, we recommend that you both seek a reasonable agreement to avoid ending the tenancy. That being said, the decision to agree with the request to reduce or defer rental payments lies with the landlord. 

Q12. What are the land tax relief measures in Victoria? 

Land tax, including vacant residential land tax, relief measures include:

  • Deferral of 2020 land tax until 31 March 2021 for eligible landowners who own at least one non-residential property and have total taxable landholdings below $1 million.
  • Reduction of up to 50%, and deferral of remaining 2020 land tax, until 31 March 2021 for eligible commercial landlords and eligible owner-occupiers.
  • Extension of 25% tax waiver to 2021 land tax for eligible residential landlords and deferral of remaining tax until 30 November 2021, including any deferred land tax from 2020.
  • Waiving 2021 vacant residential land tax on residential properties in inner and middle Melbourne that were vacant for more than six months in 2020.

For detailed information, visit the coronavirus land tax relief page.

Q13. How can I secure tenants during COVID-19?

Even during the lockdown, your property manager will look to secure tenants by organising virtual home viewings, with online tenancy applications and electronic lease signing.

To make sure your property is chosen against the competition, review the rent prices asked for the nearby, similar properties for lease and ensure that your online presence is a standout. You and your property manager can look to use all the available resources such as virtual tours, professional photos, virtual staging, floorplans and creative copy for your listing.

Our extensive database of prospective tenants is immediately notified of new listings and price adjustments.

Q14. What is going to happen with routine rental inspections? 

Whilst Stage 4 restrictions are in place throughout Metropolitan Melbourne, in-person routine inspections will not be carried out. As a result, some agencies have decided to postpone routine inspections that are due to take place.

Fortunately, we have the resources to conduct efficient virtual inspections. We are currently using Inspection Manager to conduct Tenant Assisted Inspections (TAI), the finalised report will be sent to the landlord. 

Your property manager can outline this process should you have any queries. Alternatively, you can view the TAI step-by-step guide

Q15. Will Stage 4 restrictions influence VCAT arrangements? 

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) are only hearing urgent matters, with all non-urgent matters being adjourned. This is expected to cause significant delays, both now and when outstanding applications are rescheduled. Where there is an urgent dispute or matter which needs to be dealt with by VCAT, hearings will be heard by phone or video conference.

Q16. What is going to happen with rental payments? 

We will continue to receipt all rental payments, chase up any arrears and keep in contact with tenants and landlords with regards to rental payments in the usual manner.

As our offices are closed we are unable to process your rental payments in person, so tenants will need to make their payments online. Regarding landlords, all rental monies received will be paid to you in the usual manner as soon as we have cleared funds in our trust account.

Q17. How will Stage 4 restrictions influence start or end of lease arrangements? 

Final inspections and key collections (contact-free) are permitted, as well as other important aspects relating to the start or end of a lease. These are to be attended by one person only, by private appointment. The agent will require a permit and the tenant will need to show evidence of the appointment. No other in-person inspections are permitted, including agents attending to perform walkthrough tours. 

Q18. Can I still move during Stage 4 restrictions? 

Those who need to move will be able to do so, remembering curfew hours still apply (9pm-5am), movers will be required to wear a face-covering and practice safe social distancing.

 

As we continue to navigate through the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19, we want to reassure you that Ironfish Real Estate are here to help and assist where possible.

For the most up-to-date information concerning COVID-19 restrictions and current regulations in place for real estate services, please visit:

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