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Victorian rental reforms: What landlords and property managers need to know

Alex White

12 Mar 2021

Rental laws are changing in Victoria and if you’re a property manager or a self-managed landlord then these may impact you.

Designed to set minimum standards for tenants, the new rules come into effect on March 29, and might mean big changes for some rental providers.

But for others, only a few small adjustments will be necessary to bring their rental property portfolio into line with the law.

The key to success according to Philip Webb Real Estate chief executive Anthony Webb will be in landlords understanding the detail of the reforms.

And while the changes have been controversial for some “it’s time to put our heads down and do what we can,” he says.

Webb says the best option for self-managed landlords is to get their heads around the legislation as quickly as possible to ensure they understand the changes.

He advises seeking clarification from Consumer Affairs Victoria on anything that is unclear.

Read more: What is a private rental?

rental house

Victoria’s rental reforms take effect on March 29. Picture: realestate.com.au


What rules are changing?

From March 29 2021, more than 130 rental reforms come into play.

These are part of the Residential Tenancies Act amendments passed in 2019 that were due to start in July 2020, however, the date was pushed back by the coronavirus pandemic.

Most of the changes are relatively straightforward, like mandating how quickly a landlord has to fix a leaky tap, broken toilet, or home appliance, or if they can charge for a new set of keys.

Many of the big changes, however, fall in favour of the tenant allowing them more rights when it comes to pet ownership, urgent repairs, rental modifications, and minimum standards for things like ventilation – which will require investment from property owners.

Up until now, the state government has been lenient, but from the new deadline at the end of the month, if a serious breach is identified property owners risk being named on a new landlord blacklist that will be set up on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.

So, to help self-managed landlords and property managers navigate the changes here is a quick guide on the new laws.

Pets

Renters need written consent for animals to be kept in a rental property, but the rental provider can no longer automatically refuse a request. Instead, landlords must apply for permission to deny a pet living on the property from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

dogs in apartment

Renters still require written permission to have a pet in their rental property. Picture: Matthew Hamilton/Unsplash


Rent rises

Rent can only be increased under a fixed-term rental agreement if the original agreement spells out when rent will be increased and the calculation method of the increase.

Locks and keys

All external doors and windows must be fitted with working deadlocks, and a set of keys must be provided free of charge for each renter on the lease.

Long-term leases

Rental agreements can now run for up to five years and can include a larger bond that can be negotiated with the tenant.

Read more: Different types of tenancy agreements

Family violence

Rental agreements can be terminated with 14 days’ notice on the basis of a renter being a victim of family violence upon an application with the state tribunal.

Advertising

Rentals must be marketed at a fixed price and ads cannot contain offers for rental bids.

Conduct

Agents and landlords will be banned from making deceptive or misleading representations about their rental properties, contracts, and tenant’s rights.

Privacy

A potential tenant’s personal details can only be used to assess their rental application.

Sale of property

Landlords cannot take on a new tenant without informing them if the house is up for sale or being repossessed.

716 Drummond street

Landlords must disclose information about a pending sale or repossession. Picture: realestate.com.au/rent


Unlawful discrimination

Tenants applications can no longer be rejected on the basis they have a disability or have children.

Unsigned rental agreements

If a tenant has signed a rental agreement it will be enforceable if rent has been accepted in the interim period – even if the contract was not signed by the owner.

Read more: How to find a tenant for your rental property

Utilities

Electrical and gas inspections must now be carried out by a licensed or registered tradesperson every two years. Landlords will also be held accountable for a tenant’s bill if a fault is to blame for any excessive usage charges.

Notice to vacate

Landlords must now give the specific reason they require a tenant to leave a premise. However, new 14-day vacate notices have been introduced to remove tenants that engage in threatening or intimidating behaviour toward property managers, or recklessly causes damage.

Breaking the lease

In certain circumstances a renter can break a lease with 14-days’ notice but not be liable for rent thereafter. This includes issues with a visa or citizenship.

Rental condition

Landlords are responsible for making sure their rental is safe and suitable regardless of how much rent is paid. This includes things like mould and ventilation and will likely pose the biggest costs for some property owners, as it applies to all properties even when the potential tenant is aware of the damage and willing to disregard it.

Urgent repairs

Property owners must take steps to carry out urgent repairs within seven days or pay compensation to the tenant. This now applies to all appliances including air conditioners and heaters, repairing mould or damp, and dealing with pest infestations. Landlords must also reimburse renters for all emergency repair fixing costs incurred by the tenant, within seven days.

Modifications

Renters will be able to make minor changes to their rental without asking their property manager.

This includes installing picture hooks, LED globes, and wall anchoring devices to secure furniture.

 

For comprehensive detail on the changes or more educational resources landlords can visit the Victorian Government Consumer Affairs rental reform portal.

You can advertise your property for rent or find the right property manager on realestate.com.au.

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