You may get behind on your rent on your business premises because of the bushfires. 


Is your business still viable?

Can your business recover?

You may need to work out whether your business is still viable. You can do this by:

Can’t pay rent for my business

Step 1 Has the business premises been destroyed or severely damaged?

You may be able to reduce your lease/rental payments or terminate the lease if the business premises have been destroyed or severely damaged by bushfires. Commercial leases are often in a standard form and drafted by the lessor/landlord.

The standard forms vary depending on the State or Territory where your business is located.

If you believe you should have your rent reduced or be able to terminate the lease follow these steps:

  1. Check your lease for the sections that apply to damage due to unforeseen circumstances such as a natural disaster. If you have lost a copy of the lease, ask your lawyer or the landlord for a copy.
  2. Talk to your landlord about the problem. You may be able to agree to a solution.
  3. If you are unsure get legal advice.
  4. If the dispute cannot be resolved see Step 6 below for a list of State and Territory services that may be able to assist you to resolve the dispute.

You also need to consider if your business can relocate or continue trading online while the premises is repaired.


There are laws to protect you from unfair terms in small business contracts (including leases) if:

  • It is a “standard form” lease and you did not have any opportunity to negotiate terms

  • You employ less than 20 people; and

  • The upfront price payable under the contract is not more than $300,000 - or $1 million if the contract is for more than one year.

If you believe there is an unfair term in the lease and the landlord is relying on it to hold you to the contract, get legal advice.

Step 2 Work out what you can afford to pay

If you’re struggling to pay your business rent payments, the first thing to do is work out what you can actually afford to pay.

If you can afford to pay something

Start paying what you can afford and then contact your landlord to make a payment plan to catch up on the rent arrears.

If you can’t afford to pay anything

Call us on 1800 413 828 for advice.

Can your business recover? Will you need to close?

  1. If you need help to work out if your business can recover speak to your accountant or use the Australian Taxation Office’s business viability assessment tool
  2. If you may need to close your business, your approach to debt payments may change. Get advice on the best plan for your business
  3. If you are a company you must not trade while insolvent. If you are unsure get legal advice and/or get advice from your accountant.

Step 3 Contact your landlord

Call your landlord and let them know you have been affected by the bushfires and cannot afford to pay your rent. Negotiate time to pay. Be realistic about what you can afford.


  • Keep details of how and when you told your landlord you were in financial hardship and the details of any arrangement you agreed

  • Confirm any agreement made in writing (letter or email)

Step 4 Rent is a high priority payment

If you are still operating your business, then payment of rent is one of the highest (if not the highest priority) payment. Call us if you need support and advice on working out payment priorities.

Step 5 If you make a payment arrangement for rent arrears stick to it

If your landlord agrees to the payment arrangement, do your best to stick to it.

  • Make the agreed payments on the agreed dates

  • If you start struggling to make the payments contact your landlord again to talk about your situation

  • If it is taking longer than you planned to get back on track, call us for advice.

Step 6 If your landlord will not agree you may be able to get help to negotiate or mediate

There are government services that may be able to assist you to negotiate with your landlord. Some of these services also provide a low-cost mediation service.

They are:

NSW: Office of the NSW Small Business Commissioner

VIC: Victorian Small Business Commission

QLD: Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman

SA: Office of the South Australian Small Business Commissioner

WA: Western Australian Small Business Development Corporation

NT: Northern Territory Consumer Affairs

ACT: Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO)

TAS: Retail tenancy: Consumer Building and Occupational Services Other commercial tenancies: Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO)

Step 7 Speak to one of our financial counsellors

If your problem still hasn’t been solved, or you’re feeling overwhelmed, call us on 1800 413 828 to speak with one of our small business financial counsellors.

Warning: This fact sheet is for information only. Do not rely on it as legal advice. It is recommended that you seek specific advice on your own situation.