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Have your say on rental laws

Victoria’s renting laws are set to change in a big way – with implementation of the full suite of reforms by 1 July 2020.

Over 130 new reforms will affect all types of rental housing. They will increase protections for renters, and ensure rental providers can still effectively manage their properties.

The Department of Justice and Community Safety has released proposed regulations to support the new laws, together with a Regulatory Impact Statement outlining the costs and benefits of the regulations to the community. You can access these on: www.engage.vic.gov.au/rentingregulations

This is our opportunity to provide written feedback on how the new regulations will impact the community housing sector and our clients.

CHIA Vic will be consulting with the sector and preparing a submission, however you may also wish to put in your own submission.

Submissions can be public or anonymous and should be submitted by 5pm on 18 December 2019 on Engage Victoria. The outcomes of the consultation will be published in April 2020.

Key proposed regulations

Prohibited questions

Rental providers and their agents will be prohibited from asking for certain information in rental applications. This includes information on the applicant’s rental bond history.

Minimum standards

Rental providers must ensure that their rental property meets certain minimum standards on or before the move-in date.

The proposed minimum standards include:

  • a toilet in good working order
  • a reasonable supply of hot and cold water
  • electrical safety requirements in line with rooming house standards
  • window coverings to ensure privacy in bedrooms and the main living area
  • a fixed heater in the property’s main living area, which includes an energy efficiency requirement in standalone rented premises.

Standards relating to window coverings and electrical safety will be delayed to give rental providers time to upgrade their properties.

The standard relating to heating will also be phased in over three years to allow both rental providers and the industry to adjust.

All other rental minimum standards apply to rental agreements entered into from 1 July 2020.

Property modifications

Renters will be able to make certain modifications to their homes without the consent of the rental provider. Prior consent is needed for all other modifications.

The renter must restore the property to its original condition (subject to fair wear and tear) at the end of the rental agreement. Residents living in a rooming house, caravan park or residential park will need the operator’s consent for any modifications.

The renter does not have to seek the rental provider’s consent to:

  • replace curtains (while keeping the originals); and
  • install adhesive child safety locks on drawers and doors.

There is also a list of modifications where a renter must seek the rental provider’s consent, and which the rental provider cannot unreasonably refuse.

The proposed list includes:

  • installing picture hooks or screws for wall mounts, shelves or brackets on brick walls
  • installing wall anchoring devices on brick walls to secure items of furniture
  • installing a vegetable or herb garden.

More information

Find out more about the reforms or to sign up for email updates on the Changes to renting laws webpage.

 

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.

RTA amendments pass Parliament

On Friday the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill passed Parliament, and with it come some significant changes for the sector.

Overall, CHIA Vic is happy with the changes, which include additional protections for staff and contractors; many changes recommended by the Family Violence Royal Commission; and, clarification around matters such as who can apply a service charge and what can be declared a rooming house, both of which are now available to registered housing agencies.

The amendments remove the 120 notice to vacate for no specified reason, limit rent increases to once every 12 months, and allow a notice to vacate only at the end of the initial fixed term for tenants on a fixed term rental agreement.

The new laws will ensure every rental home meets basic standards – with functioning stoves, heating and deadlocks. It will also require landlords to meet basic safety standards for gas, electricity and smoke alarms. These are already things that the community sector does well, and it is good to see that they will be required of landlords in the private rental market as well.

Renters will be given the right to make minor modifications – probably including things like nailing a hook on the wall or installing anchors to stop furniture falling on children – without first obtaining the landlord’s consent.

Changes have been made to how pets are treated. People will be able to ask to keep pets, and the rental housing provider cannot refuse unless they get a VCAT order. If they do get an order, however, providers will be able to give a Notice to Vacate (NTV) for having pet without consent, which they can’t now. This should not affect community housing – most providers have pet agreements and pet policies already.

One major concern is that a new section will require VCAT members to assess whether every application for possession is ‘reasonable and proportionate’. This will again introduce a whole new set of legal arguments that housing workers will have to present every time they go to VCAT.

The bill has yet to be signed into law so we do not yet know when the amendments will come into effect. Another important factor will be that many of the changes to the Act involve the introduction of new regulations, prescriptions and guidelines which will be developed by Consumer Affairs. They have said they will consult CHIA Vic ‘where necessary’ when developing these.

CHIA Vic will be working closely with the sector on the effect of these changes and developing an understanding how they might affect existing tenancy management practices.