In October 2017, the Andrews Government announced a raft of reforms to the state’s Residential Tenancies Act, promising to “fix the system and make renting fair for every Victorian”.
In September 2018, the reforms passed through state parliament, paving the way for the changes to come into force in July 2020.
Aimed at giving more rights to the renter, the reforms touch on everything from rental pricing and bonds, to pets and repairs.
Here’s a breakdown of the major changes that will come into effect in July 2020.
- Landlords will only be able to increase the rent once a year:
- When it comes to increasing the rent, landlords will only be able to raise rental payments every 12 months, rather than every six months as the law currently allows.
- Rental bidding will be outlawed:
- The new laws will ban rental bidding: Properties will need to be advertised with a fixed price, and landlords will not be able to accept a higher price.
- New limits on rental bonds:
- Landlords in Victoria will no longer be able to charge a bond worth more than one month’s rent, when the rent is less than double the median weekly rent (currently $760).
- Tenants will be able to apply for bond release without landlord’s consent:
- The new laws flip the script on bond reimbursement, making it much easier for renters to reclaim their deposit.
- Under the new laws, renters will be able to apply to the Residential Tenancy Bond Authority (RTBA) to have all or part of their bond released without their landlord’s consent. The landlord will then have 14 days to raise any concerns. If none are raised, the bond will be paid back to the tenant.
- Tenants will get their bond back much quicker:
- Tenants can apply to get their bond back up to 14 days before the end of the tenancy, rather than seven.
Rental security and greater protections
- Landlords must give a reason to ask people to move out
- One downside to renting is living with the knowledge that you, the tenant, could be turfed out of your home whenever the landlord sees fit. Exacerbating this is the fact that landlords are currently allowed to end a tenancy without specifying a reason.
- The new reforms will abolish this ‘no specified reason’ clause, and require landlords to give a valid reason for terminating a rental contract.
- The reforms also place new restrictions on ending leases without a reason at the end of a lease when that lease has lasted more than one fixed term.
- Landlords must keep tenants informed about property:
- Landlords will be legally obliged to inform tenants about important aspects of the property, such as plans to sell, or if asbestos has ever been found in the building.
- Domestic violence victims will be able to terminate contracts:
- Victims of family violence will be able to terminate rental agreements, so that they aren’t held liable for the debts of their abusers.
- Longer leases in the pipeline:
- New long-term lease arrangements are currently under consideration. If implemented, these will create greater security for landlords and long-term tenants alike.
- Rental properties will need to meet minimum standards:
- The new laws will dictate new minimum standards for rental properties.
- From July 2020 onwards, every rental property must include: a vermin-proof rubbish bin; a functioning toilet; adequate hot and cold water connections in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry; external windows that have functioning latches to secure against external entry; a functioning cooktop, oven, sink and food preparation area; a functioning heating in the property’s main living area; and window coverings to ensure privacy in any room the owner knows is likely to be a bedroom or main living area.
Pets and repairs
- Landlords will only be able to refuse pets in certain circumstances:
- Landlords will no longer be able to automatically include a “no pets clause” in rental agreements without having to justify their decision. They’ll also be prevented from unreasonably refusing requests to have pets, provided tenants get the landlord’s written consent first.
- Tenants will be able to make minor modifications without landlord’s consent:
- The reforms contain some great news for anyone who wants to add some personality and colour to their home while renting. The new laws allow renters to make minor modifications, such as hanging pictures, installing air conditioning or adding reasonable security measures, without the landlord’s consent.
- Tenants will be entitled to quicker urgent repair reimbursement:
- The new laws dictate that tenants are entitled to reimbursement from the landlord for money spent on urgent repairs after seven days, down from 14.
A few extras
- There will be a new blacklist for dodgy landlords:
- If you breach your tenancy agreement while renting a property in Australia – either by paying your rent late, or causing malicious damage to the property – chances are, your name will find its way onto The National Tenancy Database.
- It’s essentially a blacklist containing information about the renting history of certain tenants. Agents use it to work out whether prospective tenants are reliable and likely to be respectful of their rental property.
- Up until now, there’s been no such thing for landlords. But under the new reforms, there will be a blacklist for landlords and agents too, giving tenants the opportunity to identify anyone who has breached their responsibilities under the Residential Tenancies Act.
- Landlords will only be able to hold two inspections per week:
- If you choose not to renew your lease, your landlord will only be able to show prospective tenants around the property two times every week. The inspections should last no more than one hour, and should only be scheduled within 21 days of the fixed tenancy agreement.
- A landlord must keep hold onto any lost property for 14 days:
- Landlords must store anything of monetary value for 14 days. Tenants can apply to VCAT to have this period extended.
- Should you fail to collect your goods in time, the landlord can sell or dispose of your goods, but they must give you the proceeds of any sales, minus their expenses.
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