A 50 per cent reduction in revenue could see a 50 per cent reduction in rent.
Mr Morrison said in cases where a business had been forced to close, tenants and landlords could agree to extending the length of the lease in exchange for a rental waiver during the closure period. Lease payments could also be increased for the remainder of the agreement.
To be eligible for the JobKeeper package businesses have to demonstrate they have had at least 30 per cent reduction in turnover during the coronavirus crisis.
Mr Morrison said for tenants that have not had a reduction in business turnover, their “rental agreement stands”.
The move comes as scores of businesses stand down hundreds of thousands of staff around the country due to the health restrictions on non-essential activity.
IPN Medical Centres, which is owned by the ASX-listed $11 billion business Sonic Healthcare, wrote to landlords on Friday requesting a 50 per cent rent reduction.
“We have been forced to deal with the financial disruption that has resulted from significantly reduced volumes nationally as patients are restricted in their medical access through a mixture of government edicts, fear and misunderstanding,” it said.
Mr Morrison said the focus of national cabinet had been on commercial tenants due to the number of businesses impacted by the virus, but the states would continue to work on measures for residential tenancies.
“We won’t have anyone thrown out of their homes, that’s very important. There is a moratorium on [residential] evictions,” he said. “That doesn’t mean there is a moratorium on rents.”
Real Estate Institute of Western Australia president Damian Collins said the government needed to get clear instructions out to landlords and tenants.
“85 to 90 per cent of people still have their jobs and should pay their rent,” he said.
Mr Collins said agents needed to “be very careful” when it came to telling tenants they should access government benefits, such as early access to super to pay rent.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission sent a letter to all major real estate institutes on Friday after claims agents had urged tenants to access their retirement savings to cover their rent.
The regulator warned this could constitute unlicensed financial advice and could attract a fine of up to $126,000 and five years in jail.
Mr Collins said there were ongoing concerns about how landlords would get through the six month period.
“The Australian Bankers Association have come out and said they will be quite flexible and supportive in allowing landlords to defer their payments in a situation where tenant can’t pay the rent,” Mr Collins said.
“That’s fine but it’s kicking the can down the road. We are keen for a decent rental assistance package so landlords won’t be left carrying the burden.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the opposition had received reports from tenants of “entirely inappropriate behaviour” by real estate agents.
In one instance, Mr Albanese claimed a sick Queensland woman who was being tested for COVID-19 had been told by a real estate agent to “go for a walk” to clear the property for an inspection.
Eryk Bagshaw is an economics correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra
Jennifer Duke is an economics correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra.