The COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 (Bill) was passed on 25th March 2020 and received royal assent the following day.

The Bill introduces Part 11 into the Retail Leases Act 1994 (RLA) (which is a new part).

The new Part 11 provides that regulations MAY provide for certain matters for the purpose of responding to the public health emergency caused by COVID-19 pandemic as follows:

  1. prohibiting the recovery of possession of premises by a landlord in particular circumstances;
  2. prohibiting the termination of a lease by a landlord in particular circumstances;
  3. regulating or preventing a landlord from exercising or enforcing another right in particular circumstances;
  4. exempting a tenant, or a class of tenants, from the operation of the RLA or any agreement relating to the leasing of premises.

A couple of important points:

(1) No regulations have been enacted at the time of writing this note.

(2) The regulations can only be made if Parliament is not sitting, and is unlikely to sit within 2 weeks after the regulation is made and, in the Minister's opinion, the regulation is reasonable to protect the health, safety and welfare of lessees under the RLA.

(3) Regulations made under the above provision expire 6 months after the regulation commences, unless Parliament resolves an earlier expiry.

(4) Part 11 applies not only to the RLA but to "any other Act relating to the leasing of premises or land for commercial purposes". It is therefore possible that the amendment results in a regulation being made under legislation which governs commercial leases or leases not caught by the RLA.

More to follow as it comes to hand.

Kind regards

Mary Digiglio

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