Fairer Safer Housing

Fairer Safer Housing – An Overview of Proposed Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act

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Sarah Boyle

Starting in 2015, a review of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 has been undertaken by the Victorian Government. This initiative has been one of several actions that have taken place as part of their Fairer Safer Housing platform. The Residential Tenancies Act was put in place to protect Victorian citizens living in rental housing, whilst also acting as a benchmark for property managers and landlords.

With that said, the 21 years that have passed since the Residential Tenancies Act was introduced have seen a considerable amount of changes within the rental market. In turn, adjustments need to be made to ensure that this act meets the needs of tenants and landlords alike in 2018.

 

How Has the Review Process Taken Place?

 

Between 2015 and 2018, a variety of review stages have been put in place to ensure that all alterations to the initial Residential Tenancies Act are viable and fair in a 2018 market. This started with a consultation paper in June of 2015. This paper, titled Laying the Groundwork, outlined the current rental market in Victoria and looked to gather viewpoints from the public regarding effects and impacts of various trends within the rental sector.

Between the end of 2015 and late 2016, the public consulting that had been taking place began exploring a wide array of issues relating to the rental housing market. These discussions revolved primarily around issues of security and protection for those living in rental housing, including protection for residents of residential parks and caravan parks.

In early 2017, these consultations were followed by the release of a “public options paper” for final discussions. This paper, titled Heading for Home, provided an outline of public consultation outcomes. Based on this, as well as submissions to the review, the development of a reform package for the Residential Tenancies Act began.

Whilst there’s still information to be released, the reform package in question will be introduced to Parliament sometime in 2018.

 

How Will These Proposed Changes Affect Landlords and Tenants?

 

While there is still information to be released regarding the final verdict on changes, some proposed amendments to the 1997 act include:

 

– Removing the 120-day Notice to Vacate for ‘No Specified Reason’;

– Limiting the use of ‘end of fixed-term’ notices to vacate;

– Bond capped at one months’ rent for all tenancies less than $760 per week;

– Landlords unable to unreasonably refuse consent for pets;

– Allowing tenants to make minor property modifications;

– Landlord and estate agent blacklist;

– Requiring pre-contractual disclosure by landlords regarding asbestos and intention to sell;

– A new Commissioner for Residential Tenancies;

– Early release of bonds by agreement before the end of a tenancy;

– Faster tenant reimbursement for urgent repairs;

– Automatic bond repayment within 14 days when a claim hasn’t been lodged;

– Ban on rental bidding and rent bidding apps;

– Rent increases restricted to once per year; and

– Prohibiting false, misleading or deceptive representations by landlords or agents prior to a tenancy.

 

Information on these reforms was provided in October 2017. This list of planned amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act taken from the Real Estate Institute of Victoria. The original Residential Tenancies Act 1997 can be found here.