After it was delayed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic that stopped the world in its tracks, the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 was quickly forgotten about, initially set to arrive on the 1st of July, 2020.
However, the residential tenancies regulations are coming into full swing once again on the 29th of March, 2021, meaning there are plenty of changes for both renters and rental providers (no longer landlords or tenants) to read up on, with a grand total of 132 reforms in the new RTA!
Even we’re still wrapping our heads around all these changes, but luckily we’ll sum up the key reforms so you don’t have to spend hours scrolling through the residential tenancies act online (unless you find that enjoyable, in which case grab a coffee and enjoy!)
So with that said, here’s our breakdown of all the main changes to VIC residential tenancy laws.
Advertising and Bonds
To kick things off before putting pen to paper for the new tenancy, there are a number of regulations that have been changed in terms of real estate and property management as a whole.
For example, rental providers and estate agents are no longer able to accept bids that are higher than the advertised price, as the fixed price advertisement must stand.
When it comes to rent itself, there are changes to bonds and how much the rental provider can ask of the applicant. In this case, the property manager can ask for a maximum of one month’s rent (unless the weekly amount of rent exceeds $900). This total, however, does not include additional bond amounts that may come from other issues (like potential pet damages, which we’ll delve into later).
Laws regarding bonds doesn’t stop there, as renters no longer need to seek permission from the rental provider to receive their bond back at the end of the lease agreement. Instead, renters are able to apply through VCAT (Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal) and receive the bond amount through the RTBA (Rental Tenancy Bond Authority).
For better assistance with bond dispute resolution between both renters and rental providers, the condition report will help levy any issues from the start to the end of the agreement, which you can read about here.
Minimum Property Requirements
Once the 29th of March arrives, there are new minimum standards that a rental property must abide by, and some that will come into play further down the line which will allow rental providers some wiggle room to adjust.
These requirements include:
- External entry doors require a fitted lock that can be opened with a key and locked with or without a key from the interior. If this cannot be met, an alternative deadlock must be implemented.
- Bathrooms must include reasonable cold and hot water supply, including a shower/bath and washbasin, as well as a moderate showerhead (3-star rated minimum). Speaking of bathrooms, there must be one functioning toilet with an appropriate waste system in a designated area.
- The kitchen must include a sink with cold and hot water, a stovetop with two working burners at minimum (also a good working oven if available), as well as a dedicated food area.
- The property must be weatherproof and structurally soundproof, and must include working smoke alarms.
- A fixed heater in the main living area is required, needing an energy efficient heater of 2-star minimum to be installed if one does not exist prior.
- Exactly a year later on the following 29th of March, all windows in bedrooms and living areas must be able to block light with covering and provide privacy.
- Two years later on the following 29th of March, electrical safety switches must be installed.
Should these needs not be met, the renter is legally allowed to end the rental agreement before they move in, making it vital these needs are met.
Speaking of electrical, utilities like water, gas and electricity fall under utility bills that the tenant must pay for themselves (excluding shared utilities in apartment blocks). However, all new connection rates must be paid for by the rental provider.
If the renter is moving into an apartment, the provider must inform them about potential utility charges included in the rent, with a full breakdown of costs and a copy of the bill when it comes time to pay up.
In addition to this, if an excessive utility bill is attributed to a fault in pipes or any other hidden issue, the rental provider must pay the extra costs that appear in the renters bill.
For renters, be sure to get in early and contact water, gas, electricity and internet providers before moving in, or better yet you can call MyConnect on 1300 854 478 or use the Get Connected form here! If you’re unsure about using a utility connection company, hopefully this post here can assist you.
Cats, Dogs and all other Pets
These furry little friends are a mixed bag when it comes to property preserving, and these new changes have plenty to do with them.
Renters will need written consent from their rental provider to keep pets in the property still, but the new laws will not allow discrimination to pet-owning applicants.
In order to refuse a pet into the property, the rental provider will need to contact VCAT on the grounds of reasonable refusal (historical value of the property etc.).
However, there still may be an extra bond to cover potential damages from a pet as mentioned earlier.
A big one that is always debated between renters and rental providers is the freedom of the renter to personalise the property they’re living in, at the potential behest of the rental provider and their vision of the property.
The RTA changes allow more modifications to be made by the renter with seeking consent from the provider, including hooks, nails or screws for wall mounts on surfaces.
Installations of LED light globes and easily removable security lights, cameras and more also fall under the new rental laws.
Some modifications still would need consent from the provider however if it falls under the Heritage Act 2017, which is part of the rental agreement. Painting walls and drilling holes in general will also require permission, however the provider cannot refuse a request unreasonably unless it significantly changes the property.
Rental Payments and Increases
During the tenancy, the renter cannot be evicted if there is a late rent payment (not exceeding 14 days after due date). However, there is an exception to this if the renter has been late 4 times in the same 12-month period.
The rental provider must also offer the renter one fee-free method of payment at minimum for the rent that is reasonable. Centrepay must be permitted should the renter choose, as well as offering all methods available to pay rent that include incurred cost.
Rental increases have also changed under the new laws, changing fixed-term tenancy agreements in a way that only allows rental increases to occur if the tenancy agreement that was signed specifically mentions the amount it will increase by and through what method. The rental provider may amend the price once the fixed-term lease is up and the need to sign a new contract is available.
Should renting be done on a month-to-month period, the rental provider can still make rental increases, albeit with at least 60 day’s notice of the rent increase.
Entry to Property for Inspections
Property owners are limited to a property inspection once every 6 months, including a written notice for intention of inspection. The inspection must also fall on an agreed upon date excluding public holidays and fall between 8am and 6pm.
Along with a property inspection, the other reasons the rental provider can property meets while the renter occupies the area consists of:
- Property maintenance/fixes
- Take photos or video to advertise the property come end of lease
- Open inspection come end of lease (compensation could be paid to current occupant for inspections made while still living in the property)
- Reason to believe the renter has gone against the fixed term agreement and potentially up for eviction
- Assessment of pre-termination where the renter has applied for early termination, on grounds of domestic violence and other possible harassments.
With the new law changes, urgent repairs will fall under replacements and repairs in regards to safety devices, air conditioning and any fault or damage in general that renders the property uninhabitable or unsafe as a whole.
In addition to this, money limit for repairs reimbursement has been increased, and the provider must reimburse the renter for reasonable cost of repairs needed to be urgently made, within 7 days of written notice provided by the renter.
Anything that doesn’t fall under urgent repairs can be actioned by the renters and applied directly to VCAT should the rental provider not carry out the repairs within a fortnight.
If you want to get the full read of the act, head here for a write up by Consumer Affairs Victoria.