New service to resolve COVID-19 tenancy disputes in ACT

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Tenants and landlords in the ACT will be able to access mediation services to resolve tenancy disputes for issues related to COVID-19.

ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay announced yesterday (Wednesday 6 May), the Conflict Resolution Service would provide the service, pending final negotiations, with the aim to have the service to be up and running “as soon as possible”.

Mr Ramsay said both tenants and landlords have been encouraged to “share the economic burden” that is COVID-19 and was confident in the abilities of the Conflict Resolution Service to be able to resolve tenancy disputes.

“Conversations about money or about a person’s home or their long-term investments are not always easy,” he said.

“The Conflict Resolution Service is a long-standing, trusted provider of mediation services in our community and has a panel of qualified mediators that they can draw upon.”

The ACT Greens have welcomed the announcement, with housing spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur labelling the move a “huge win” for Canberra renters.

“The Prime Minister recently called on renters struggling during this pandemic to just ‘work it out’ with their landlords. But there is often already a power imbalance between tenants and landlords that, for some, will only be exacerbated during this crisis. This is clearly understood, as the Government provided a similar mediation service for commercial tenancies many weeks ago,” she said.

“If you’re already struggling to get by, and then lost your job or had your hours cut, then COVID is hitting hard and in lots of cases, you should really be able to get a rental reduction. Yet many tenants won’t know what their rights are or how best to go about asking for their rent to be reduced if they have lost income because of COVID-19.”

The ACT had previously introduced some rental relief measures, including financial incentives for landlords to reduce rents, and moving to ensure tenants can’t be “blacklisted” for failing to make rental payments during the pandemic.

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