Debates and Questions - Day 1 - 24 April 2020
Parliamentary Record 27
Debates and Questions for 13th Assembly 2019 - 2020; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020
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Debates and Questions
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES AND QUESTIONS Friday 24 April 2020 8309 negotiations. This anticipates that they will be able to refer to the code as a starting point for negotiations. The notice for business tenancies will require commercial landlords to attempt to engage their tenants in 30 days of good-faith negotiations before issuing a notice to quit. The notice is a modification notice which will modify parts of the tenancy legislation. A notice is produced by the overarching power this bill provides. If the matter has not been resolved and the landlord wishes to pursue eviction, the landlord can take the matter to the Local Court, as per usual, to pursue a warrant of eviction. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the Local Court must refer the parties to mandatory formal negotiation. This will be done by the NTCAT unless the parties wish to agree to a private mediator of their choice. It is anticipated that with this professional support more landlords and tenants will be able to find a resolution that works. To refer the matter back to the Local Court, the NTCAT must be satisfied that the landlord has participated in good faith and no resolution is possible, or that 60 days has elapsed. Landlords should also be aware that even if they are successful in obtaining a warrant of repossession, the landlord will be required to pay their own legal fees unless the tenants breach was not due to the COVID-19 situation. That is an important point. These measures are designed to ensure that parties are sufficiently incentivised to negotiate and that even small businesses, struggling during this time, have the capacity to pursue fair negotiations with appropriate time and support within a known budget. In true Territory spirit we have seen our community come together to help one another. We have seen businesses, landlords and property owners do the right thing. Yesterday I heard a story of a small business that was anxious but their landlord supported them with rental relief, which means they can continue trading and keep people employed. We all need to pitch in together and work with each other to ensure that, as a society, Territorians get through this crisis in a way that allows us to pick up and get on with things when this health crisis ends. That means we need to carry the burden cooperatively. Unfortunately, as with those who have been disregarding physical distancing and self-quarantining measures, some landlords and tenants who are not rising to meet the challenges cooperatively for the benefit of all Territorians. There are provisions to make sure that this is in relation to COVID-19, so that landlords and tenants can work cooperatively. Simply put, the Territory cannot afford to have people unnecessarily moving around the community or businesses permanently closing because they cannot afford to pay the rent for a short time. It jeopardises the health of Territorians and reduces the ability to quickly restart the economy. Businesses that have closed due to eviction will not be able to drive that restart. Where businesses are commercial landlords, their eligibility for the relief measures I spoke about previously will depend on whether they have done the right thing and negotiated with tenants in line with the good-faith principles in the National Cabinet Mandatory Code of Conduct. We reiterate to landlords to do the right thing and, equally, tenants need to respect landlords, do the right thing and act in good faith. The amendments in this bill are designed to apply the National Cabinets commitment to managing tenancy agreements during the COVID-19 emergency. In terms of residential tenancies the amendments provide me, as the minister responsible, with the power to amend or override provisions in the act or make new regulatory arrangements for occupancy agreements while the health declarations for COVID-19 are in place. This will be done by a modification notice, which I previously explained. As I have spoken about many times, in this House and outside, we are facing extraordinary times. Like other jurisdictions around Australia, we are passing responsive and responsible tenancy legislation. However, these amendments provide a mechanism that allows a quick reaction to the extraordinary emergency we currently face in combatting COVID-19, which the current provisions do not facilitate. Consistent with the National Cabinet's desire for cooperation between landlords and tenants, the core of the amendments are based on negotiating outcomes between landlords and tenants. The negotiated outcomes should enable both parties to survive, as much as they can, the economic impacts while preserving the underlying tenant-landlord relationship.
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