After more than 20 years without change, the Victorian Residential Tenancies Act (1997) has finally been reviewed and reformed. Dubbed Rent Fair, amendments to the Act outline rights of tenants and landlords in Victoria. After a period of community feedback, they will be fully ratified by mid-2020.
The main purposes of these reforms are to improve tenant rights. Landlord rights are still protected under the legislation, but have been changed to make the leasing process more transparent for all parties. To bring Victoria's rental laws up to modern standards, several general reforms have also been legislated.
TTS Real Estate is committed to bringing you accurate, up-to-date information about landlord and tenant rights. To learn more about what you can and can't do as a tenant or landlord, get in touch with our expert property leasing team.
Reforms for tenant rights
The new rental reforms in the Victorian Residential Tenancies Act have been designed to keep renter's rights in step with modern demands and cultural trends. In short, renters have been granted more freedom to make their house into a home.
As rents continue to rise and competition increases, expensive bonds are becoming a focal point of tenant rights discussions. New bond reforms have been outlined to ensure that landlords are not taking advantage of a flourishing rental market, and include:
- Early release from bond without landlord consent, if feasible
- Faster bond repayments from landlords
- Bond amounts capped at no more than 4 weeks' rent
While they have been yet to be specifically defined, tenants will soon be able to perform minor modifications to their rental property without prior consent from a landlord. These will include hanging pictures with hooks, anchoring furniture, painting walls, and occupational therapy additions.
Victorian renters now have the right to live with pets if they have obtained written consent from the landlord. The onus to refuse this request will fall back to the landlord, who will need to take the dispute to VCAT. However, tenants still have a duty of care to protect the dwelling and keep it clean.
Tenants may be required to foot the initial cost (up to $1,800) for urgent repairs, say to fix a broken garage door or smashed window. The tenant can seek reimbursement from the landlord, and this must be repaid within 7 days, an improvement on the original 14-day period.
Reforms for landlord rights
While tenant rights have been changed, landlord rights have been reinforced to ensure that leases are fair, and that landlords can still effectively manage their property. There are several changes to landlord rights, and to what property owners can and can't do over the course of the lease.
Landlords can no longer pit tenants against each other in an effort to get them to bid for the lease. Now, accurate rental prices per week, per fortnight, or per month must be outlined when a property is advertised on digital and traditional channels.
This addresses one of the biggest concerns faced by tenants in Victoria. New reforms to landlord rights ensure that rent can only be increased every 12 months, and that the rent increase must be reasonable. Tenants can appeal increases at VCAT. This amendment is now in effect as of June 1, 2019.
120 day leave period
Previous, landlords were able to issue a no specified reason 120-day notice to vacate. Now, landlords will only be able to issue this notice if they specify a reason in the Act. This change is only applicable where the tenant has an agreed term of tenancy in their rental agreement.
TTS Real Estate is dedicated to helping landlords and tenants find common ground. If you would like expert advice on how to navigate these new changes, get in touch with our friendly team.
There are several general landlord and tenant rights reforms that will come into effect after the legislation has been fully enacted. Monitoring these standards requires a combined effort between landlords and tenants.
Minimum livability standards
All dwellings are required to meet basic minimum standards, with deadlocks, proper cooking facilities, bathrooms and toilets, functioning heating. Every home must have frequent safety maintenance for gas, electricity, pool fences, and smoke alarms.
When the Act was first made law in 1997, only 5% of Victorian dwellings were apartments. Now, over one third are small scale dwellings. This immense shift has prompted the state government to review the design principles that underpin apartment builds. New best practice design standards have preceded the renting reforms outlined above.
The state government has chosen to implement recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Tenants are now able to terminate rental leases in cases of family violence. Victims will not be forced to pay extra money to terminate a lease, and will also not be held liable for the debts incurred by their abusers.