Conveyancing May 27, 2021

Changes to residential tenancy law

5 min read

Entourage_©Tatjana Plitt_1150
Entourage_©Tatjana Plitt_1150

2021 has not been an awesome year for investors so far, with the state and federal budget favouring first home buyers over any other market segment. In fact, investors have also had a hard time with some new regulatory changes coming in for those who are rental providers. This article covers the latest changes in this space, read on.

Residential tenancy law changes

This financial year we saw a change to legislation around residential tenancy laws resulting in 130 reforms that came into place. This bought with it changes to certain definitions and terminology used, along with an increase in the responsibilities of Rental Providers (previously called Landlords) and the rights of Renters (previously Tenants).

Here are some of the more impactful changes introduced:

  • Evictions without a valid reason or no-grounds are no longer allowed. To evict a Renter, Rental Providers must provide documented evidence when they issue the notice to vacate such as sale, change of use, demolition or the Rental Provider moving back in.
  • Property Managers and Rental Providers can no longer invite prospective Renters to offer rental bids. The property can only be advertised or offered at a fixed price.
  • Rental payments need to be available to be paid fee free (i.e. they can’t only accept payment via credit card where a processing fee may apply) and they must permit payments via Centrepay if requested. Renters must also be advised upfront if there are any fees associated with the payment method selected.
  • Renters can now apply directly to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority to have their bond released and rental providers will have 14 days to dispute the claim.
  • Rental providers can only increase rent once every 12 months rather than every six months.
  • Renters can keep pets at their rental property with the rental provider’s consent. The provider cannot unreasonably refuse the request to keep a pet and if there is reasonable grounds then they must apply to VCAT for an order.
  • Renters are allowed to make certain changes to the property without permission (or Rental Providers need a good reason to deny the request) including but not limited to wall hooks/screws for pictures, shelves/brackets, replace curtains (but have to keep the originals), shower heads, fly screens on doors/windows, installing a vegetable garden, painting of the premises. There are a lot of rules and requirements on this particular point, so it definitely pays to get some legal advice on when permission can be withheld or the works by the renter should be covered by additional bond to cover the cost of undoing the works.
  • New minimum rental standards are in place relating to amenity, safety, and privacy. If the standards are not met the renter can terminate (before they move in) or request an urgent repair any time to cover these standards.
  • Urgent repairs have been expanded to include more repairs and replacements, the amount able to be reimbursed has increased to $2,500 and the Rental Provider must reimburse the Renter within seven days of being given written notice of the urgent repair taking place.

Suffice to say, there have been a lot of changes introduced and a lot of them in favour of the Renter. If you are a Rental Provider and want to understand where you stand and how your responsibilities have changed you can speak with Entourage Legal who can provide detailed guidance.