New Vic rental laws to benefit tenants

25 October 2019

Written by: Becky Steepe

Renters in Victoria to be given more rights

Will you get a pet? Where will you hang your painting? Are you going  to anchor your cupboard to the wall, so it can’t tip over and kill your toddler? For renters these are questions only their landlord can answer, but in Victoria this is about to change.

The Victorian Government is in the process of implementing over 130 rental reforms designed to increase protections for renters. These changes are being are being introduced gradually, but will all be in place by June 2020.

It is important that landlords are able to protect their investments and in the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 they have had a lot of control over how their tenants live. A change of terminology in the reforms from the labels “landlord and tenant” to simply “rental provider and renter” shows a shift in the power dynamic we can expect.

One of the attractions of owning your own house is being able to make adjustments to your property. For the increasing number of people being priced out of the property market, the reforms will give them some of the same freedoms they couldn’t afford.

Renters will be able to make minor modifications to a property without obtaining consent. The definition of minor modifications is yet to be announced but is expected to include picture hooks and furniture anchors. Amanda Sharp has found a rental provider that allows her to make modifications to the house and garden without notifying them.

“It’s awesome, because it makes the house feel a bit more like home when you don’t have to run things by someone to get permission,” Sharp told upstart.

As the saying goes “a house isn’t a home without a dog”. For that reason, some of the most talked about reforms relate to pets. Blanket bans on pets will no longer be allowed. A pet request must still be submitted, but for it to be rejected the rental provider must give the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) evidence showing the animal is not suitable for that property.

Victoria’s agriculture minister Jaala Pulford believes these changes will end discrimination against pet owners.

“No one should have to choose between the pet they love and a place to live,” Pulford said.

This was the choice faced by Donna Nelson. Unable to find a pet friendly rental, or a foster family, her nine-year-old dog Zena had to be put down.

“The day the pound came to take her away, I collapsed in my mum’s hallway, it broke my heart,” Nelson told upstart.

With the power to make these decisions being taken away from rental providers, the CEO of Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) Gil King, said there will be a reduction of the rental market.

“People are telling us that they’re now looking to invest elsewhere, such as super, shares or savings to make more money from their outlay,” King told upstart.

For some rental providers the most expensive reform will be bringing their property up to the new minimum requirements. These requirements include a functioning toilet, hot and cold water, a working cooktop and oven, food preparation area, a deadlock on external doors and heating in the living room.

This was an issue for Tony Magnuson‘s rental provider. When Magnuson realised the heater in his apartment was actually just a heater covering, the estate agent agreed to provide a new one.

“A fitter did a quote for $600, they didn’t want to pay that so they gave the repairer $100 to get an electric heater from Bunnings,” Magnuson told upstart.

Finding an affordable home will be easier, as all properties must be now advertised at a realistic fixed price, no more price ranges, rental bidding or inviting higher offers. For property agreements made after June 2019 rental increases will be limited to once a year.

Tennant blacklists have been around for a long time, but now one is being made of rental providers. The list will include all estate agents and rental providers who have previously breached the Residential Tenancies Act.

For people who have found a rental home, fear of eviction can be an issue. To provide security, the laws are being changed. No-reason evictions will be banned, end of fixed-term notices to vacate can only be given at the end of the renters first fixed term agreement and longer leases will be available.

These reforms will make Victoria the country’s leaders in rental rights. However, the impact they will have on the investment property market is unknown. If they are a success this could be the beginning of a better life for all Australian renters.

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Photo: Rental Property by Investment Zen available HERE and used under a Creative Commons Attribution. The image has not been modified.

Becky Steepe is a third year Bachelor of Media and Communications (Media Industries) student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on Twitter @BeckySteepe