Rental Reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act 2018


The proposed Rental Reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act 2018 were

scheduled to be implemented in July this year but due to the unprecedented
Coronvirus impact across the world they will now take effect on March 29th
2021. There are a total of 132 reforms, some have already been introduced
with the remainder taking effect in 2021. These include changes to the rules
around tenant's and landlord's rights and responsibilities including pets,
rent arrears, doors and windows, vacates and maintaining the property to a
particular standard. Notably the key words used have also changed. Landlords
are now referred to as Rental Providers and Tenants referred to as Renters.

The reforms were created after extensive research and analysis of data
provided from the community and organisations directly related and impacted
by housing in Victoria. Think compliance, protection and Fairer Safer
Housing for all Victorians. Further information about how this information
was gathered can be found at https://engage.vic.gov.au/fairersaferhousing

Consumer Affairs website summarises the new reforms
https://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/housing/renting/changes-to-renting-laws/all-
changes-in-place-from-july-2020

Some of the most common questions we are receiving are in response to the
following reforms;

Pets in rental properties  - this one is already in place
Renters can keep pets at a rental property with the written consent of the
rental provider. A rental provider can apply to VCAT for an order that it is
reasonable to refuse permission.

New process for repeated late or non-payment of rent
When a renter pays back overdue rent within 14 days, any notice to vacate
issued by the rental provider for that overdue rent is invalidated. This
applies for the first four times it happens in a 12-month period. However,
if the renter fails to pay rent as required on a fifth occasion in the same
12-month period, the rental provider may give a notice to vacate and apply
to VCAT for a possession order. VCAT may adjourn the possession application
and place renter on a payment plan to meet the outstanding arrears.

Rent increases can occur every 12 months. (previously 6 months)

Rental providers must give a valid reason to end a rental agreement
Rental providers (landlords) cannot issue a no specified reason notice to
vacate. To end a rental agreement, rental providers must provide a valid
reason such as sale, change of use or demolition of the rental property, or
rental provider moving back into the rental property.
120 day notice to vacate will be removed, this was for "no particular
reason".

Evidence for change of use notice to vacate
Rental providers must attach documentary evidence to a notice to vacate for
change of use. The Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria will specify the
types of evidence that must be used, for example a building permit.

Notice to vacate for endangering safety
Rental providers can issue a notice to vacate if the renter or their visitor
endangers the safety of neighbours, the rental provider or their agent, or a
contractor or employee of either the rental provider or their agent.

New ground for issuing notice to vacate: threats and intimidation
Rental providers can give renters a 14-day notice to vacate if the renter,
or any person occupying the rented property, has seriously threatened or
intimidated the rental provider or their agent, or a contractor or employee
of either the rental provider or their agent.

Clarification for notice to vacate for damaging property
A notice to vacate can be issued where a renter or their visitor, by act or
omission, intentionally or recklessly causes serious damage to the rented
property, including to any safety equipment or common areas.

New options for renters claiming their bond
Renters can apply to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA),
without the rental providers permission, to have all or part of their bond
released.

Professional cleaning requirements
A term in a rental agreement can only require professional cleaning if it is
needed to return the property to the condition it was in at the start of the
rental agreement, taking into account fair wear and tear.

 

14-day notice of intention to vacate without lease break fees
Renters can give 14 days notice of intention to vacate without paying lease
break fees in limited circumstances, including when they need special or
personal care, have been given certain notices to vacate, need temporary
crisis accommodation or have been accepted into social housing.

Death of the sole renter
After the death of the sole renter, either the legal personal representative
or next of kin of the deceased renter can give a notice of intention to
vacate, the rental provider can give a notice to vacate, or VCAT can make
orders terminating the agreement.

Rental property must be kept in good repair and reasonably fit for
occupation

Rental providers (landlords) must ensure the rental property is provided and
maintained in good repair and is in a reasonably fit and suitable condition
for occupation. This applies regardless of the amount of rent paid or the
property’s age and character.

Rental minimum standards
Rental providers have a duty to ensure their rental property meets the
rental minimum standards. The minimum standards will be set in April 2020
following public consultation in November 2019 through Engage Victoria.

Non-compliance with minimum standards
Rental providers must ensure that the property complies with minimum
standards before a renter moves in. If a property does not comply with the
minimum standards, the renter can terminate the rental agreement before they
move in, or they can request an urgent repair.

Expanded definition for urgent repairs
Urgent repairs now include repairs or replacements relating to air
conditioning, safety devices and any fault or damage which makes the
property unsafe or insecure, including pest infestations, or mould or damp
caused by or related to the building structure.

Urgent repairs guidelines
The Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria will issue guidelines clarifying
timeframes for responding to urgent repairs. VCAT must consider the
guidelines when determining urgent repairs disputes.

Increased limit for urgent repairs reimbursement
The money limit for renters to authorise urgent repairs when their rental
provider has not promptly responded to an urgent repair request has been
increased.

Rental provider must pay renter back for cost of urgent repairs within 7
days

Rental providers must pay back renters for the cost of urgent repairs (or
replacement if the fault cannot be repaired) within seven days of the renter
giving written notice of the reasonable cost of the repairs.

Tenants can apply to VCAT to cease rental payments to the agency/landlord if
urgent maintenance items are not attended to, the funds would then be paid
into Rent Special Account until repairs are made.

New rules for renters making modifications to rented property
Renters can make prescribed modifications without the rental provider’s
consent. There are other modifications which a rental provider cannot
unreasonably refuse consent to renters making. What qualifies as a
prescribed modification will be decided by April 2020 following public
consultation in November 2019 through Engage Victoria.

Renters to leave property reasonably clean
Renters must leave the property reasonably clean and in the same condition
as at the start of the rental agreement, taking into account fair wear and
tear.

Records of gas and electrical safety checks
Rental providers must comply with prescribed requirements for keeping and
producing records of gas and electrical safety checks conducted at the
property.

Locks for external doors and windows
Rental providers must ensure that external doors are secured with a working
deadlock and each window capable of having a lock has one. There are
exceptions, for example if there is a screen door attached to an external
door with a deadlock.

VCAT to determine parties liability where the agreement is terminated due
to circumstances of family or personal violence

When terminating and/or creating a new agreement because of family or
personal violence, VCAT may apportion liability between the victim,
perpetrator and any other co-renters in relation to the bond, and any
outstanding unpaid rent, utility charges and damage.

VCAT can determine bond liability in family or personal violence
circumstances

When considering an application for the repayment of a bond, VCAT will be
able to determine that a renter who is a victim of family or personal
violence is not liable for any loss or damage caused by the actions of the
alleged perpetrator (who is not a renter).

Moving to the new rental laws: some exceptions to existing rental agreements
Rental providers and renters who have existing rental agreements signed
before 1 July 2020 will be exempt from some of the new rental laws until
that agreement is terminated and a new agreement is signed.

Rental non-compliance register
Rental providers found by VCAT to have committed an offence or breached a
duty under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 will have their name, rental
property address, and nature of their offence or compensation or compliance
order made listed on the register available from the Consumer Affairs
Victoria website.