A tenancy mediation service for Canberra renters and landlords affected by COVID-19 has already received a number of requests and referrals since it went live just days ago.
Canberra-based Conflict Resolution Service will provide mediation for tenants and landlords who cannot come to an agreement for a rental reduction during the pandemic.
Conflict Resolution Service chief executive Melissa Haley said the service had already fielded a number of inquiries.
"There certainly has been a demand for the service and people inquiring as to how the service will work," she said.
"We've also received referrals from people that have been seeking support through Legal Aid and through other community organisations the run tenancy support services.
"And we have also received referrals from real estate agents that manage properties on behalf of the landlords."
As part of the ACT government's response to COVID-19, landlords who reduce the rent of tenants by at least 25 per cent would be eligible for land tax rebates of up to $100 a week.
There have been reports that some landlords were reluctant to sign up to the rent reduction scheme.
A Legislative Assembly select committee hearing into the ACT government's response on April 23 heard fewer than 100 landlords had signed up to the scheme.
However, there had been 354 applications from residential landlords as of May 15, an ACT government spokeswoman confirmed.
Tenants have also reported being sent invasive questionnaires about their financial situation. Some had been asked if they had cancelled their Netflix subscription or if they had contacted their superannuation provider about early access.
If a tenant went into rental arrears due to COVID-19 they could not be evicted due to a moratorium on rental evictions. The government has committed the moratorium would be in place for six months. The current declaration would expire on July 22, but it is intended this would be extended.
Attorney General Gordon Ramsay announced the Conflict Resolution Service would be funded to provide mediation last week and said at the time it would work to get it running "as soon as possible".
Ms Haley said the service had sought to keep the process "as simple as possible".
People would put through an inquiry and all inquiries would be managed by the same person. Fact sheets would be given to ensure people had all the relevant documentation and then a meeting between the tenant and landlord would be organised, Ms Haley said.
"We meet with the tenant and the landlord to work through what options might be available to each of them and what circumstances they are in and what possible resolutions can be sought by coming to a mediation," she said.
"Then we bring both parties together and that can either be face-to-face, it can be online, it can be through an assisted settlement process, which we work between the two parties to come together and find a resolution that would work for both parties during this time."
If a landlord did not want to reduce rent for their tenants, Ms Haley said other options such as a payment plan or a rental collection freeze with any rent not collected in this period to become a debt owed to the landlord.
"That could be a payment plan, a reduced rent for a period of time and have a date stipulated that then there is a payback system," she said.
"It could be the landlord is just happy to reduce the rent for a set period and go back to the rental income when tenants can get back on their feet."