Update – Residential Tenancies Act Reform
By Nafsika Palbas
13 November 2017
The Victorian Government has recently concluded its review of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic) ("the Act").
On 8 October 2017 the Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews announced an initial set of reforms which the government proposes to introduce. These changes include:
- Landlords can only increase the rent every 12 months. This is currently every 6 months.
- Landlords and agents must advertise the property at a fixed price (no ranges or ‘price plus’ advertising) and cannot invite prospective tenants to make an offer at a price higher than the fixed price.
- A landlord and agent “blacklist” will be made publicly available so that tenants can identify landlords and agents who have breached their responsibilities under the Act.
- Landlords cannot include a “no pets” clause in tenancy agreements. Tenants will be allowed to have pets provided they have sought the landlord’s prior approval (which cannot be unreasonably withheld). Tenants will be required to undertake cleaning and fumigation if there is pet-related damage to the property that goes beyond fair wear and tear.
- Tenants can apply to the Residential Tenancy Bond Authority (RTBA) to have:
- Their bond released up to 14 days before the end of their tenancy. This is currently 7 days.
- All or part of their bond released within 14 days without the landlord’s consent, and if there is no dispute, the bond will be released.
- Landlords cannot require a bond of more than 1 month’s rent where the weekly rent is less than double the median weekly wage (which is currently $760). Landlords must apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to obtain an exemption to this.
- Landlords must reimburse tenants within 7 days for urgent repairs paid up to the authorised limit. This is currently 14 days.
- Currently landlords can end tenancy agreements for “no specified reason” provided they give 120 days notice to tenants. Landlords will now be required to give a reason.
- Tenants who receive an “End of Fixed Term” notice will be able to vacate the property on 14 days notice, rather than continuing to pay rent to the end of the fixed term.
- Landlords will be required to tell tenants of important information related to the property, including future plans to sell or if asbestos has previously been identified in the property. Tenants will be able to take landlords to VCAT if a landlord has failed to properly notify the tenants of these issues.
- Tenants can make minor modifications (such as installing wall hooks) provided they obtain the landlord’s written consent (which cannot be unreasonably withheld). Landlords may request a qualified person undertake the modification.
The above are proposed reforms and have not been finalised. The Government is in the process of finalising the reforms and amendments to the Act and at present it is anticipated that the reforms will be introduced into parliament in 2018.
It is important that landlords, agents and tenants keep abreast of the reforms as they will significantly affect the rights and obligations of each party when passed by parliament.
We will monitor the progress of the reforms and provide updates in future Blogs.
If you need assistance in this area, please do not hesitate to contact our Property Team.
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