Addressing the country on Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the anticipated industry code of practice for commercial tenants, designed to address particularly the small and medium-sized tenancies, has not yet been finalised.
“An industry code of practice for commercial tenancies has been worked on by the various stakeholder groups. That industry code has not got to the point that we believe it needs to get to ensure a sufficient security for tenants and landlords affected,” the Prime Minister said.
“I had hoped we had been in a position to finalise this today, and we’re very close.”
He explained that the “code of behaviour”, mandatory under state and territory laws, will apply to tenants with turnover under $50 million, that are a part of the JobKeeper program.
PM Morrison suggested that landlords will be forced to give rental reduction to tenants who have suffered revenue loss.
“The turnover reduction of the tenant needs to be reflected in the rental waiver of the landlord,” Mr Morrison said.
“How that’s done in the lease is up to the landlord and the tenant.”
Speaking about other areas covered by the code, the PM said: “You would have that protection of issues around evictions, you would have the protections around claims on penalties or acting on guarantees of interest protection on rent — on all of these matters, you’d be protected.”
The PM assured landlords that they, too, will be protected, with banks expected to step up and join the table.
“The banks will need to come to the party as well; the banks are not party to those arrangements, so legally that makes it a bit more difficult… We would expect banks to be very supportive of the agreements reached under this code.”
Although stressing the importance of mutual understanding, the PM assured that mediation will be made available in the event that landlords and their retail commercial tenants are unable to reach an agreement.
The Prime Minister also warned tenants that haven’t had a reduction in their business turnover that their leasing arrangements stand.
“You should be still paying your rent to the landlord. Those things haven’t been suspended.”
It is now expected that the code will be announced next week, bringing relief to thousands of businesses across the country.