Victoria

Tenants set to gain more rights under Victorian Government's tenancy reform package

A COMMISSIONER for Residential Tenancies will be appointed to champion the rights of private renters and landlords will no longer be able to terminate a tenancy using non-specified reasons or unreasonably refuse requests for tenants to keep pets under a proposed tenancy reform package unveiled by the Victorian Government last week.

Other changes include measures to prevent landlords from unreasonably preventing tenants from making minor modifications to properties, a new 14-day automatic bond repayment, updated bond caps and upfront rent caps for most properties and faster reimbursement for tenants who have paid for urgent repairs.

Houses in Melbourne
Above: Houses in Melbourne / by mark walsh.

Rental bonds and upfront rent 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, which covers most Victorian rental households.

The proposed changes form part of a comprehensive review of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 that commenced in 2015 to ensure that rental laws protect the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords across all forms of rental accommodation. A consultation paper was released in 2015 and an options paper was released earlier this year.

"Only our Labor Government will fix the system and make renting fair for every Victorian. Everyone deserves the chance to have a safe, secure and affordable home – whether you own it or not," Premier Daniel Andrews said in a statement.

According to the government, more than one in four Victorians rent their home and this number is increasing as high housing prices make it difficult for many Victorians to enter the housing market.

Other proposed changes include:

  • Limit the use of the 'end of fixed term' notices to vacate: Landlords will only be able to end tenancies using an 'end of fixed term' notice to vacate at the end of the first fixed term. At the end of any subsequent terms, a landlord will only be able to end a tenancy using one of the grounds specified in the Residential Tenancies Act.
  • False, misleading or deceptive representations: A landlord or agent will be prohibited from making false, misleading or deceptive representations to induce a tenant to enter into a residential tenancy agreement.
  • Pre-contractual disclosure: Requiring pre-contractual disclosure by landlords of the known presence of asbestos in premises, and other important information such as any proposal to sell the property.
  • Rent increases: rent increases must be reasonable and will change from being able to be increased every 12 months instead of every 6 months. Tenants have the right to appeal to VCAT if they believe an increase is excessive compared with the market rent.
  • Measures to stop rental bidding: All landlords and agents must be advertised at a fixed price (no ranges or 'price plus' advertising) and must not invite prospective tenants to make an offer at a price higher than the fixed price.
  • Landlord and agent blacklist: A landlord and agent 'blacklist' will be available to all tenants to identify landlords and agents who have previously breached their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act.

More information on the proposed reforms is available from the Victorian Government's 'Rent Fair' website at <http://www.vic.gov.au/rentfair/tenant-rights.html>.

Photo: Houses in Melbourne / mark walsh / Licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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