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Rent Fair - rental reforms for Victorians

Only 7.6% of new lettings in Melbourne were ‘affordable’ – compared to 30% a decade ago. Also, more Victorians are renting than ever before. Our current rental laws are over 20 years old. So we’re reviewing the laws and standards for renting.

Review of the Residential Tenancies Act

We reviewed the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 because renters and landlords need different laws than they did 20 years ago.

The review recommended many changes, for renters and landlords. There are also some expected changes to the laws for people who live in caravan parks.

The changes will be introduced in stages as we consult further with the community to develop the guidelines. All reforms will start by 1 July 2020.

Reforms

This initial package of reforms, announced on 8 October 2017, focuses on strengthening tenants’ rights, to provide those who rent with a sense of security and support.

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2018 was passed in September 2018 and included more than 130 reforms that aim to increase protections for renters, while ensuring rental housing providers can still effectively manage their properties.

Read the full list of reforms on the Fairer Safer Housing page on the Engage Victoria website .

Introduce long leases

Many renters stay in their rented home for more than 5 years.

The new long lease agreement will make it easier for landlords and tenants to agree to longer leases.

Remove 120 day ‘no specified reason’ notice to vacate

At the moment if a tenant is renting month to month, the landlord can tell the tenant to leave with 120 days notice. For this kind of notice, the landlord does not need to give a reason.

We will change the Act so landlords will only be able to end a tenancy if they give a reason specified in the Act. Example reasons are if the landlord is selling or renovating the property.

Limit the use of ‘end of fixed-term’ notices to vacate

The reforms will change the current system where a landlord can end a tenancy after any fixed term, even if the tenant has rented the property for more than one term.

Under the reform, a landlord can only end a tenancy using an ‘end of fixed-term’ notice to vacate at the end of the tenant’s first fixed term agreement. For any later fixed terms for the same tenant, the landlord can end the tenancy using one of the grounds specified in the Act . Another change to the Act means that if a tenant gets an ‘end of fixed-term’ notice they can give 14 days’ notice to leave. They will not have to wait until the end of the lease.  

Require honesty and accuracy

Landlords will have to tell a prospective tenant some kinds of information before they sign a rental agreement with them.

For example, the landlord would have to tell the tenant if they are planning to sell the property during the term of the agreement, or if the landlord knows that asbestos has been found on the property.

Under the reforms, the landlord or agent must not tell the tenant any incorrect information or neglect to tell them something about the property as a way to get them to sign a lease.

If a landlord does this, the tenant can go to the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to seek compensation or end the tenancy.

Create a landlord blacklist

We will create a landlord and agent ‘blacklist’ that will be available to all tenants so they can identify landlords and agents who have previously breached their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act.

This keeps the system fair for tenants. The Act already allows for a ‘blacklist’ of tenants.

Speed up bond repayment

We will reform the system for repaying the bond to a tenant at the end of a tenancy.

Under this reform, renters will be able to apply to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA) at the end of the tenancy to have all or part of the bond released with or without the landlord’s consent.

Allow early release of bond

In the current system, a tenant can apply for their bond to be released before the end of the lease. If the landlord agrees, the RTBA releases the bond 7 days before the end of the lease.

If both parties agree, the RTBA will pay out the bond within 14 days in full or in accordance with instructions from the parties as to any apportionment.

If the landlord has not consented to the bond being paid out, the RTBA will notify the renter, who then has 14 days to notify the RTBA if they are disputing the claim. If not the bond will be automatically paid out.

This reform will mean that, in practice, tenants will lodge their bond form and if the landlord does not dispute the bond within 14 days, the tenant will be paid out by the RTBA.

Updated bond cap & up-front rent cap for most properties

The reforms will ensure that bonds will be no more than one month’s rent for any property where the weekly rent is less than double the median weekly rent. Only landlords who have obtained an exemption from VCAT will be able to require a bond of more than one month if the weekly rent is below this limit.

Upfront rent will also be limited to one month’s rent for these properties.

Speed up reimbursement for urgent repairs

Tenants who have paid for urgent repairs up to the current authorised limit of $1,800 will be able to seek reimbursement from the landlord for the reasonable costs of repair within 7 days, instead of 14 days.

This will reduce the amount of time tenants are out of pocket for urgent repairs that the landlord should have covered.

A failure by the landlord to reimburse the tenant will entitle the tenant to seek a compensation order from the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal. A breach of a compliance order would expose the landlord to being ‘blacklisted’.

Reduce how often rent can increase

We will change how often a landlord can increase the rent. Currently, the Act allows rent increases every 6 months. The reforms will mean that rent can only be increased every 12 months. The rent increases must be reasonable.

The tenant can appeal the increase at VCAT if the increase is unreasonable compared to other properties in the market.

Require fixed rent amount in advertisements

Rental bidding can lead to reduced transparency for rental applicants and can increase search costs if properties are advertised at a price lower than a landlord is willing to accept.

Landlords will be expected to put their best foot forward from the outset of the rental process by settling on a realistic fixed price, enabling applicants to broadly rely on the advertised price when looking for their next rental property.

All landlords and agents must:

  • advertise properties at a fixed price (no ranges or ’price plus’ advertising)
  • not invite prospective tenants to make an offer at a price higher than the fixed price (including via technology platforms)

Allow pets in rental properties

Tenants will have the right to keep pets, provided they obtain the landlord’s written consent first which can only be refused by order of VCAT. The onus will be on the landlord to get approval from VCAT to refuse consent to a pet, once they have received the request from the renter.

In the case of an assistance dog, consent cannot be refused at all.

Guidance will be issued to help landlords and tenants understand the types of situations where it may be reasonable to refuse consent.

An outgoing tenant may be required to undertake cleaning and fumigation if there is pet-related damage to the property that goes beyond fair wear and tear. This is consistent with their existing duty not to damage the property and to leave it in a reasonably clean condition.

Permit minor modifications

A tenant will be allowed to make certain minor modifications to a rental property without first obtaining the landlord’s consent. The definition of ‘minor modifications’ will be set out in the regulations, but is expected to include picture hooks and furniture anchors to stop furniture toppling over and harming people, particularly small children.

Renters will otherwise continue to be required to obtain the RRP’s written consent for any other modifications that are not ‘minor’.

Depending on the type of modification requested, the landlord may require the tenant to use a suitably qualified trade person. This would include someone who is licensed or otherwise has the relevant expertise to carry out the modification.

In the case of disability-related modifications, which can be more complex, an assessment may be needed to determine the need for home modifications. This would be conducted by an accredited occupational therapist, or other allied health practitioner as appropriate. Tenants may also rely on an existing assessment.

Appoint a Commissioner for Residential Tenancies

A Commissioner for Residential Tenancies will be appointed to champion the rights of Victorian tenants in the private sector.

The Commissioner will consult widely with tenant and consumer advocacy groups across the rental sector to identify systemic issues and will give tenants a voice in seeking changes to renting laws.

Current laws and assistance

The Renting section on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website has information about the current renting laws. Consumer Affairs Victoria will update their website as reforms are put in place.

Private rental assistance

Some renters need extra help. For example a renter may be able to pay rent but may have problems arranging a lease because they don't have a rental history or don't understand how renting works. Private rental assistance helps people with these kinds of problems.

Private rental brokers will help with advice about private rental assistance.

The Salvation Army and VincentCare Australia both have private rental broker programs. Search the web for private rental brokers to find more.

Better Apartments Design Standards

Around a third of new Victorian homes are apartments. 20 years ago, it was around 5%. We want to make sure all apartments are built to an acceptable standard. 

The Victoria Planning Provisions and all planning schemes now refer to the Better Apartments Design Standards.

The Better Apartments page on the Planning website has information about the Standards. The page also has information about the Apartment Design Guidelines for Victoria, planning advisory notes and a buyers and renters guide for better apartment living.

Reviewed 14 March 2019