Residential Tenancies Act Changes - What you need to know.

Posted on 19 Feb 2021, 10:41 a.m. in Property Management

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Originally set to come into effect on 1 July 2020, but delayed due to the pandemic, consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) have announced that all 130 new reforms will now be implemented by 29 March 2021.

Here is a breakdown of the main changes to the Residential Tenancies Act and what you need to know:

Terminology:

The new rental laws refer to some of the terminology that will be changing.

Landlords or owners will become ‘residential rental provider’, tenants will be known as 'renters' and tenancy agreements as ‘residential rental agreements’.

Urgent Repairs:

Urgent repairs will now include repairs or replacements relating to air conditioning, safety devices and any fault or damage which makes the property unsafe or insecure, including pest infestations or mould or damp caused by or related to the building structure.

Additionally, the limit for urgent repairs will be increased to $2,500 and the landlord (residential rental provider) must reimburse the tenant (renter) for the cost of urgent repairs within seven days of the tenant (renter) giving written notice.

Rental Minimum Standards:

There is now a list of minimal requirements that landlords (residential rental provider) must ensure they provide in their rental properties.

If the rental property does not meet the minimum rental standards, the tenant (renter) can terminate the rental agreement before they move in or they can request an urgent repair at any time after they move in.

Changes to Residential Tenancies Act minimum rental standards include:

- All external entry doors other than any screen doors, attached to an external door must have a functioning single action deadlock.

- A vermin proof rubbish bin

- A functioning toilet

- Adequate hot and cold-water connections in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry

- External windows that have functioning latches to secure against external entry

- A functioning cooktop, oven, sink and food preparation area

- Functioning energy efficient heating in the property’s main living area. No electric heaters meet the criteria under the new regulations.

- Window coverings to ensure privacy in any room the owner (residential tenant provider) knows is likely to be a bedroom or main living area

- A rented premises that is structurally sound

- A rented premises that is free from mould or damp caused by building structure

- All power outlets and lighting circuits to be connected to a circuit breaker that complies with prescribed electrical standards.

Landlord’s (residential tenant providers) must pay any utilities bill of tenants (renters) as a result of providing non-compliant energy rating appliances until the time the appliance is replaced with one that meets new compliance standards.

Safety-Related Activities:

Electrical/ Gas - compulsory checks of all electrical and gas installations, fittings and appliances provided by the landlord (residential rental provider) every 2 years.

Smoke Alarms are to be checked and tested every 12 months.

Pool fences are to be in good repair, registered with the council and checked every 12 months in line with new standards.

Pets:

The new legislation allows tenants (renters) to keep pets at a rental property with the landlord's (residential rental provider’s) consent. A landlord (residential rental provider) cannot unreasonably refuse a request to keep a pet. If there are reasonable grounds to refuse permission, the landlord (residential tenant providers) can apply to VCAT for an order.

Advertising:

A landlord (residential rental provider) must offer the property at a fixed rental price and are banned from inviting rental bids.

Landlords (residential rental providers) and or their agents cannot encourage someone to enter into a rental agreement by making false or misleading representations.

Leases:

Tenants (renters) can enter a fixed-term rental agreement for longer than five years but must use the prescribed form to do so. If the long-term lease agreement is non-compliant, a tenant (renter) can give a rental provider 28 days’ notice of intention to vacate.

Bonds:

Bond will now be capped at four weeks’ rent unless twice the medium rental for Victoria and landlords (residential tenant providers) can no longer take a higher bond for a principal place of residence.

Tenants (renters) will no longer need written consent from their landlord (residential tenant provider) to file for the release of their bond. The landlord (residential rental provider) will have 14 days to dispute the claim or the bond will be repaid to the tenant (renter) automatically after that time.

Making Changes to the rental premises:

Tenants (renters) will be able to make prescribed modifications to the rented premises without the landlord (rental provider’s) consent and the landlord (residential rental providers) cannot unreasonably refuse consent to some modifications.

Victims of family violence

Tenant (renters) will be able to terminate rental agreements to ensure they are not held liable for the debts of their abusers.

If the tenancy is terminated due to family or personal violence, landlords (residential rental providers) are prohibited from listing the victim on a residential tenancy database. VCAT must also hear family or personal violence related applications within three business days.

Rental arrears

If a tenant (renter) falls into arrears but pays back overdue rent within 14 days, any notice to vacate that was issued for that overdue rent is invalidated. However, this applies for the first four occasions in a 12-month period.

If the tenant (renter) continues to fall into arrears or fails to pay rent a fifth time in the same 12-month period, the landlord (residential rental provider) may issue a notice to vacate and apply to VCAT for a possession order.

Rental increases:

Rental increases are now limited to every 12 months and you must disclose the method by which the rental increase was calculated.

Notice to Vacate:

Landlords (residential rental providers) will no longer be able to evict tenants (renters) without cause, once a fixed-term agreement expires (e.g., banning no grounds evictions).

Disclosure:

A landlord (residential rental provider) must comply with prescribed requirements for keeping and producing gas, electrical and pool barrier safety checks.

The landlord (residential rental provider) must also disclose any other prescribed information to the tenant (renter) prior to entering into an agreement such as asbestos in the property, mould or damp at the property or the property being the location of a homicide or crime.

Rental non-compliance register

VCAT will now be able to order the agent to disclose the landlords (residential rental provider’s) details for the purpose of legal proceedings, landlords (residential rental provider’s) found by VCAT to have committed an offence under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 will have their name, rental property address and nature of their offence listed on the CAV rental non-compliance register.

Abercromby's are currently undertaking external and in-house training to fully understand the implications of the new legislation so that we remain up-to date with our industry knowledge.

Please get in touch with your property manager to discuss the upcoming changes to the Act or any tenancy related matters. To read all 130 reforms, please visit the CAV website.



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