RTA temporarily amended

The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) has been temporarily amended in response to the Covid-19 pandemic for a period of six months from 29 March 2020. The changes give effect in Victoria to the National Cabinet commitment to a temporary moratorium on many types of eviction.  They also freeze rent increases and make a number of other changes aimed at sustaining tenancies throughout the pandemic.

These changes include the discontinuation of Notices to Vacate, voiding of notices already sent, limitation of the grounds on which a tenancy can be terminated and creation of an alternative tenancy termination process which requires an application to VCAT to seek a termination order.

CHIA Vic has provided a summary of the changes to members and assisted member organisations in adapting to the changes.  Further information will soon be available as regulations are released and CHIA Vic will be providing a briefing to the sector and practice notes at that time.

Along with these temporary changes, permanent amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act which were due to come into force by 1 July 2020 have now been pushed back and are now due to come into force by 1 January 2021. This provides more time for organisations to prepare for the amendment. It will also allow CHIA Vic time to work with the Department of Health and Human Services to address potential issues that the amendments may cause for the community housing sector and to seek further amendments to address these issues.

Pets rule – new tenancy changes in place

As part of the sweeping changes to residential tenancies law, the laws around keeping pets in rental properties have now changed.

 What you need to know about the law changes on pets:

  • The changes came into effect on Monday 2 March 2020.
  • Tenants can keep a pet with the written permission of their landlord.
  • A pet includes any animal (other than an assistance dog, for which there is no need to seek permission).
  • If a tenant requests to keep a pet using the approved form (the form provided by Consumer Affairs and available on their website), consent cannot unreasonably be refused.
  • If a landlord wants to refuse a request after receiving the form, they have 14 days to apply for a VCAT order.
  • If such an application is made, VCAT will determine if refusal is reasonable (in which case the tenant will not be allowed to keep a pet at the property) or that the tenant can keep the pet.
  • In considering applications, VCAT will consider (amongst other factors) the type of pet, the character of the property and whether refusal is allowed under any Act.
  • If the landlord doesn’t apply to VCAT within 14 days of receiving the written request, consent is taken to have been granted.
  • If a pet damages the property, the tenant must repair any pet-related damage that goes beyond fair wear and tear.
  • These changes do not apply to rooming houses.

New RTA/VCAT expert at CHIA Vic

CHIA Vic has taken seriously our Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) and VCAT expert Mark Smoljo’s threat to retire in a few months and has employed a replacement in preparation.

Jason Perdriau is taking over all of Mark’s roles relating to the RTA and VCAT and has now taken over the RTA/VCAT Help Line.

Jason is an experienced housing manager in both the community and public housing sectors and is available Monday to Friday via 0422 798 447 or email at Jason.perdriau@chiavic.com.au

If your experienced colleagues have been unable to assist you with a tricky RTA/VCAT situation, you should contact Jason. Although he is a qualified lawyer, Jason will be providing assistance based on experience in tenancy management and VCAT procedures rather than legal advice. If he believes you need legal advice, he will advise you to access the limited legal advice available for CHIA Vic members through the firm Russell Kennedy.



What’s the most important legislation for community housing?

If you work in community housing and are not familiar with the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), you need to enrol in CHIA Vic’s Introduction to the RTA training.

The full-day course gives housing and tenancy workers the basic skills and understanding they require to use the RTA in their day-to-day work. Numbers for the training are capped at 14 to ensure there is time and opportunity for the participation and discussion required to gain confidence with this key piece of legislation.

The session will be held on Friday, January 31, from 9.30am to 4.30pm. 

Bookings are essential.

How familiar are you with the RTA?

The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) is the most important legislative framework for the Community Housing Sector. If you are new to the sector or need a refresher, this CHIA Vic course will provide you with the basic skills and understanding you require for your day-to-day work.

This training would be suitable for:

  • New housing workers
  • Experienced housing workers that need to know more about the RTA
  • Experienced housing workers or managers who are new to the community sector
  • Managers who need to incorporate RTA procedures into their organisation’s policies and procedures

The full-day session will be held on Wednesday, December 11 from 9.30am to 4.30pm.

Click here for details and to book.

Tales from the Vault: housing workers assaulted

Hi there housing staffers. It’s Mark Smoljo with your latest episode of Tales from the Tenancy Vault.

Over the last two months I have had two phone calls that were rather alarming. One involved a support worker being stabbed by a tenant while the other involved a threat to kill a tenancy worker by her tenant. In both cases their managers were asking what could be done under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). Unfortunately, in both cases my answer was ‘not very much’. Believe it or not there is currently nothing housing organisations can do to take immediate action about this under the Residential Tenancies Act. The RTA only refers to ‘the safety of occupiers of neighbouring premises’.

CHIA Vic made strong representations about changing this situation in the review of the Residential Tenancies Act over the last few years. As a result, there were protections for staff and contractors put into the RTA Amendment Act which was passed last year. Unfortunately, these new provisions will not come into force until late June, 2020. (Other states have had these protections for many years.)

So, what can you do in the meantime? In the case of assaults or threats, these are police matters and you need to inform the police. In some cases the tenant will be arrested and kept in custody. However, this will not always happen. The only option open to you is to issue a 120-day notice to vacate for no reason. You will not be able to do this after July 1 next year, but by then the provisions protecting staff and contractors will have come into force.

After you have done this there will be a period of four months (plus postage) during which staff will still have to deal with the tenant. Be very mindful of occupational health and safety during this period. Staff should always deal with the tenant in pairs, and you may even be able to get the police to accompany staff if there is a need to visit the property.

A long shot you could try is to make a general application to VCAT under section 452 of the RTA because ‘a dispute has arisen under the tenancy agreement’. You may not be able to get a possession order this way, but you may able to get some sort of compliance or restraining order.

If you are running rooming houses you have more protection for staff. The danger provisions for rooming houses in the RTA refer to causing ‘a danger to any person or property in the rooming house’ – a staff member is a person in the house while they are there. You can also use the Part 8 violence provisions where appropriate. Additionally, rooming house managers can create a house rule that forbids assaulting, threatening or harassing staff or contractors.

In the meantime, stay safe out there. Please ring me at the office on a Monday or Thursday if you have any questions or email mark.smoljo@chiavic.com.au


Stay up-to-date on RTA changes

Confused by the roll out of the amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA)? Consumer Affairs Victoria has launched a website that not only details the full suite of reforms that are to be in place by July 2020, but also the timeline of reforms that have already been implemented.

The webpage will provide community housing organisations with a dynamic resource in the lead up to the July 2020 deadline.

Tales from the Vault: frequency of rent increases

Frequency of Rent Increases under the recent changes to RTA

Hi there housing staffers. It’s Mark Smoljo with your latest episode of Tales from the Tenancy Vault. After nearly two months away I’m back on the shovel. This month I’m looking at something from the very shallow end of the vault, i.e. very recent.

As you are aware, nearly all of the changes to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) arising from last year’s Residential Tenancies Amendment Act will not come into effect until June, 2020. The government has proclaimed a few changes already, such as provisions for leases of more than five years and appointment of the Commissioner for Residential Tenancies. The most recent changes, proclaimed on 19th June are:

  • Rent increases limited to once per year.
  • Providing renting guide (Renting a home: a guide for tenants) electronically.

Click here for Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) advice about these changes.

Despite this information from CAV, we are getting a lot of questions about which tenancies the frequency of rent increases applies to. The CAV website says that ‘Tenancy agreements that commenced before 19 June are not affected by this change’, but what does this mean? I will go through each of your possible scenarios:

Existing fixed term lease created before 19 June 2019

If you have a fixed term lease signed before June 19, the rent can’t be raised until the end of that lease (unless already agreed to in the lease). If they then sign a new fixed term lease at a higher rent, the rent can only be raised again after 12 months. If the lease rolls over into a periodic lease the rent also can only be raised at intervals of 12 months.

Existing periodic tenancies created before June 19, 2019

If tenancies were already periodic or rolled into a periodic tenancy before June 19, 2019, rent can be raised at six monthly intervals in perpetuity.

Tenancies on leases signed after June 19, 2019

Rent can’t be increased until the end of the lease term (unless already agreed to in the lease) and can’t be increased more than once in 12 months for both fixed and periodic tenancies.

Please note that there has been no change for frequency of rent increases for properties managed under the rooming house or caravan park provisions of the RTA.

If you have any questions on this or suggestions for future topics please email Mark Smoljo or you can ring him at the office on 9654 6077 on a Monday or Thursday.

Rental law changes

Consumer Affairs Victoria has created a webpage, Rental laws are changing, that is tracking the changes to rental laws that are being rolled out progressively until July 1, 2020.

In late 2019, you will be able to provide feedback on the regulations supporting the new laws, including the minimum standards for rental properties, and what minor modifications to a property a renter can make without seeking consent.

Rental law change to SDA go live

New provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 came into effect on 1 July 2019, covering specialist disability accommodation (SDA) rental arrangements.

Within six months of the new laws coming into effect, SDA residents and SDA providers must have one of the following agreements in place:

• a residential tenancy agreement (which gives the resident the same rights as anyone renting a standard rental property), or
• an SDA residency agreement (which gives the resident extra rights and protections).
SDA residents and SDA providers in Victoria do not need to do anything now.

Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) has set up a dedicated help line on 1300 40 43 19 to assist with SDA queries.

To keep up to date, subscribe to SDA email updates or view CAV’s Specialist disability accommodation page.