Tenants to get ‘fairer deal’ from new Victorian rental laws

Tenants to get ‘fairer deal’ from new Victorian rental laws

13 October 2017

The Victorian government has announced a package of tenancy reforms that it says will benefit the more than one in four Victorians who rent their home.

The Government initiative, Rent Fair Victoria, gives tenants more rights, helps them stay on longer leases, makes bonds smaller and fairer, and cracks down on unscrupulous landlords.

“More people are renting than ever before and for longer—that’s why tenants need a fairer deal,” Minister for Consumer Affairs Marlene Kairouz said.

“These changes will crack down on rental bidding, make it easier and faster for renters to get their bond back, and will better hold landlords and agents to account for their actions.”

According to the government, renters will get better long-term security by abolishing ‘no specified reason’ notices to vacate.

New restrictions will be placed on ending leases without a reason at the end of a lease when that lease has lasted more than one fixed term.

Tenants with furry, scaled or feathered friends will also be given the right to own a pet and, while landlords will still need to consent to the pet moving in, they will be able to refuse only in certain circumstances, says The Australian.

Victoria’s Tenants Union chief executive Mark O’Brien said the reforms were long overdue in recognising that tenants’ rights were not adequately protected.

It will also be easier for tenants to make minor modifications to the rental property, such as installing hooks for picture frames—and there will be faster reimbursements for tenants who pay for urgent repairs.

In a significant cost of living reform, bonds will be capped at one month’s rent where the rent is twice the current median weekly rent—currently equivalent to $760 per week or less, covering the vast majority of Victorian rental households.

This reform will also apply to rent that is paid in advance.

The Government says it will also ensure faster release of bonds at the end of a tenancy.

Under the reform, tenants will be able to apply for the release of bond without written consent from their landlord, who will have 14 days to raise a dispute before the bond is repaid automatically.

Perhaps inevitably, not everyone is happy with the new laws.

“Landlords who were happy to provide those rental properties will be leaving the market angry,” Real Estate Institute of Victoria chief executive Gil King told Domain, adding that the organisation will be looking to strike out as many of the proposed changes as possible.

“The impact is going to be rents go up because of less stock on market for tenants.”

That assessment is “economically illiterate”, according to the Grattan Institute chief executive John Daley, with the positives of throwing renters a bone expected to far outweigh the negatives.

“There’s very little truth to it,” Mr Daley said.

“When a landlord walks away from a property, what happens? Either someone buys and is prepared to rent it out, or someone buys it to live in it, who would otherwise have been renting.

“The number of instances where a landlord walks away and the property is left vacant is infinitesimally small.”

Consumer Affairs Victoria received more than 4,800 public comments from individuals and organisations, as part of the consultation process that led to the reforms.

You can read a complete summary of the new regulations here.