Renting during COVID-19: what tenants and property managers/owners need to know

To help the Queensland rental sector navigate tenancies during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) has answered some common questions about inspections, repairs, cleaning and shared facilities. 

Inspections and repairs 

Queensland Public Health directives and guidelines must be followed during all inspections, including when conducting an open house. Current business restrictions mean tenants, the property manager/owner or any prospective tenants must: 

  • comply with the density limits of one person per two square metres 
  • wear face masks 
  • wash or sanitise hands and surfaces, and  
  • maintain social distancing indoors. 

A reminder that rules of entry continue to apply in all situations, and entry can occur at any time by mutual agreement with the tenant under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (RTRA Act). 

What happens if the tenant is quarantining or in isolation?  

Under the RTRA Act, property managers/owners must adhere to all laws regarding the health and safety of anyone occupying the premises. This means inspections should be postponed as required under the applicable Queensland Public Health directives at the time. If a tenant is in isolation, they are to remain in their place of accommodation and cannot allow people to enter unless in an emergency. If a tenant is a close contact or has been directed to quarantine, similar restrictions for visitors apply.  

In either situation, property managers/owners should discuss next steps with the tenant and reschedule the inspection to align with the end of the quarantine or isolation period. 

Can tradespeople enter a rental property for repairs?  

The same rules regarding wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and hand washing or sanitising apply. Routine repairs (not emergency repairs) should be postponed if a tenant is in quarantine or isolation. 

Tenants who may be vulnerable, elderly or have underlying health issues can discuss their concerns with the property manager/owner and may be able to negotiate the rescheduling of routine inspections or repairs until COVID-19 risks are reduced. 

Can a property manager/owner ask the tenant to do a virtual inspection?   

If the tenant is well enough, has the ability to do so and the inspection cannot be postponed, then a property manager/owner may ask the tenant for assistance with a virtual inspection. Property managers/owners and sales agents may use this method as an alternative and can negotiate this directly with the tenant if they have the capacity and consent to facilitate a virtual inspection. 

It is important to remember that any images taken or footage recorded for the purposes of a virtual inspection which show the tenant’s belongings cannot be used to advertise the property without the written consent of the tenant. 

Can a tenant request to know the vaccination status of the property manager/owner, a tradesperson or people attending an inspection?   

No, there are currently no mandatory requirements for people entering a residential property to be vaccinated. It is up to each individual to share this information if they wish to do so.  

Anyone entering the rental property for business purposes including inspection or repairs should wear a mask, maintain social distancing and wash or sanitise their hands. If someone feels unwell or is showing symptoms of COVID-19, they should not be entering. 

Vacating a tenancy and cleaning 

Can a property manager/owner request a tenant vacating a rental property who has had COVID-19 or been in quarantine to do additional cleaning? 

The RTRA Act requires the tenant to return the premises to the same condition it was in at the start of the tenancy, less fair wear and tear. There is no requirement to deep clean. 

The tenant continues to have responsibilities under the RTRA Act to ensure the premises are clean until they vacate. If tenants invite family or friends into their home who are close contacts or unwell, they need to ensure compliance with Queensland Health directives. It may be prudent to conduct a more thorough clean if deemed necessary. 

If a property manager/owner is conducting the exit inspection with the vacating tenant, please take precautions and ensure you are wearing masks, sanitising or washing hands and maintaining social distancing. 

What happens if the tenant is due to vacate and then forced to isolate?  

The tenant and the property owner/manager should talk to each other and negotiate a solution. The tenant should notify the property owner/manager of any changes to previously agreed arrangements as soon as possible. If the vacate date needs to be changed, make sure it is put in writing and agreed by everyone. It is important that all parties comply with the Queensland Health directives.   

Both the tenant and the property owner/manager have a duty to mitigate any loss particularly in this situation and work together as best they can. While there may already be a new tenant ready to move in once the existing tenant vacates the property, good communication, negotiation and understanding each other’s situation will help to resolve the issue quickly. 

Shared accommodation or facilities 

What happens if a resident needs to isolate or quarantine in shared or rooming accommodation?  

Accommodation managers/providers cannot request the resident to move out for their quarantine or isolation period. If other residents are sharing common areas with the quarantining or isolating resident, they may want to take precautions to limit their exposure or risk, including: 

  • limiting time spent in shared or common areas 
  • cleaning frequently used facilities such as the bathroom or kitchen  
  • maintaining social distancing where possible 
  • wearing a mask and sanitising/washing hands regularly. 

Whether the current Queensland Public Health directives apply to shared or rooming accommodation needs to be assessed on a case by case basis. Accommodation managers/providers should consider if other residents would need to isolate or quarantine based on current close contact rules. 

If an alternative room is available, the manager/provider may negotiate with the other residents to move temporarily to limit exposure and further reduce the risk of exposure, however this may not be an option. 

If residing in a body corporate complex of units, apartments or townhouses, tenants may be restricted access to shared facilities and be required to remain in their unit or townhouse for the entire quarantine or isolation period.  Consideration needs to be given to the current Queensland Public Health directives and tenants may not be able to use common areas such as gym, pool or barbecue areas when they or members of their household are in quarantine or isolation. 

QCAT hearings and RTA services 

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) are proceeding with all hearings remotely via teleconferencing or videoconferencing where possible. If you are attending the QCAT premises, you will be required to comply with Queensland Health directives including registering via the Check-in Qld app, wearing a mask at all times and maintaining social distancing. If you are unwell or in quarantine or isolation, please inform QCAT as soon as possible prior to your hearing for other options available. 

If you are attending the RTA front counter, please wear a mask upon entering the building foyer and register via the Check-in Qld app on arrival. During this time, we encourage customers to call us on 1300 366 311 for tenancy information and support, or use RTA Web Services for essential bond tenancy transactions. 

Final reminders 

Remember to follow Queensland Health directives and keep up-to-date with restriction information.  

Make sure thorough consideration is given to the health and wellbeing of everyone. Early, open and respectful communication and negotiations, whether over the phone or via email, can help identify and resolve issues during this challenging time. If you are unable to reach agreement or find solutions for tenancy issues after talking to the other party, the RTA’s free dispute resolution service may be able to help. 

If you feel unwell or are displaying any COVID-19 symptoms, please stay home and get tested to reduce the risk of spread to your local community. 

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