The Victorian Government has issued a media release announcing proposed reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act, including:
- ‘Cracking down on rental bidding’ by mandating that rentals be advertised at a fixed price and ensuring that prospective tenants cannot be invited to make an offer at a price higher than the fixed price.
- Limiting rent increases to once a year.
- Abolishing ‘no specified reason’ notices to vacate.
- Placing new restrictions on ending leases without a reason at the end of a lease when that lease has lasted more than one fixed term.
- Giving every tenant the right to own a pet. While landlords will still need to provide consent, they will only be able refuse in certain circumstances.
- Making it easier for tenants to make minor modifications to a rental property, such as installing hooks for picture frames.
- Ensuring faster reimbursements for tenants who pay for urgent repairs.
- Capping bonds at one month’s rent where the rent is twice the current median weekly rent – currently equivalent to $760 per week or less.
- Tenants will be able to apply for the release of their bond without written consent from their landlord, who will have 14 days to raise a dispute before the bond is repaid automatically.
- Introducing a landlord and estate agent blacklist available to renters.
- False, misleading, and deceptive claims by landlords will be outlawed.
- A new Commissioner for Residential Tenancies will be set up to help champion the rights of Victorian renters and give them a voice in future reform of renting laws over the years to come.
The media release focuses on the proposed changes that improve rights for tenants. A list of these specific suggestions can be found at rentfair.vic.gov.au At this stage there is no more comprehensive document that looks at all the other changes to the Act that were canvassed during the two-year consultation period.
Many of the proposed improvements to the rights of tenants are long overdue and a good thing. The only areas of potential concern for housing managers are the removal of the 120-day NTV for no specified reason and the new provisions for pets.
Most registered housing associations and providers use the 120-day notice and believe that this option should be retained. There are strong arguments for removing it as well, given the potential for misuse in the private rental market.
The effect of its removal for CHOs will very much depend on whether the new legislation includes some of the earlier suggestions we made regarding dealing more effectively with tenants that are causing danger, damage and anti-social behaviour; providing for housing worker and contractor safety; and, being able to terminate transitional tenancies where tenants have refused a reasonable offer of alternative accommodation. None of these suggestions are mentioned in the media release.
Most of the proposed changes regarding pets should be fine and are fairly close to current practice for the community sector. However, the Rentfair website specifically says that ‘landlords cannot refuse consent for assistance dogs’, which could be a problem if this included rooming houses.
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From here on, there will be a more detailed document released by the end of the year and a targeted consultation, hopefully including CHIA Vic, regarding the draft bill early next year.