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The Latest on Covid Affected Commercial and Industrial Leases

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Commercial and industrial property expert Gabriela Ammendola discusses changes to the Retail Leases Act and some important details for landlords to be aware to.

CHANGES TO THE RETAIL LEASES ACT

The Retail Leases Amendment Act 2020 (Vic) made a number of significant changes to the retail leasing framework in Victoria, namely the Retail Leases Act 2003, and came into effect from 1 October 2020. A large number of these amendments impose additional obligations on landlords; therefore, all landlords should ensure their leasing processes and documentation are updated.

• Landlords can now recover the costs of essential safety measures from tenants if the lease allows it (including smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers, fire exit signs and annual safety inspections).

 • A disclosure statement and copy of the new proposed lease must be given to the tenant 14 days before entering into a lease.

• Security deposits are to be returned to the tenants within 30 days upon vacating if they hand back the premises in order.

• There are changes to notification of option to renew, early rent review and cooling off periods. A tenant now has availability of an early rent review, and they have 14 days after exercising an option to change their mind and not renew the lease for the next term.

COVID-19 OMNIBUS WILL END SOON

The government assistance extended under the COVID-19 Omnibus Act, now in effect until 28 March 2021, with no further extensions forecasted past this date, when legislative environment returns to normal. Despite the extension, there is very little to no compensation for commercial industrial landlords who have been compelled to subsidise their tenants throughout the pandemic.

All businesses must now realise that the previous legislative requirements, pertaining to their commercial lease, are reinstated from 28 March 2021. The retail sector that trades under “COVID safe” regulations have managed to survive, while the commercial office space players have been severely affected; and the industrial sector has remained robust with few vacancies.

WHAT'S NEXT?

All parties should be aware of their commercial rights and should plan on having an exit strategy for the upcoming period, especially as some businesses survived on government subsidies which may soon come to an end. Given the complexity of the current situation and legislative environment, everyone is well advised to seek professional assistance to understand their rights and responsibilities.

Gabriela Ammendola is the managing director of GA Industrial & Commercial. She has over 20 years’ experience in all facets of real estate, from corporate positions to large agencies with a focus on industrial/ commercial property sales, leasing, property management or project development. Ammendola is also the winner of the 2019 REIV Awards for Excellence as the Commercial Property Manager of the Year.

Gabriela can be contacted at [email protected] or 0423 630 170.

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