Residential tenancies legislation set for an overhaul

With more than 500,000 rental properties in Victoria, a significant proportion of the state’s population will be impacted by changes to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).

This week the Andrews Government released a comprehensive options paper looking at significant reform of the RTA, which governs the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords in the private rental market in relation to rent, bonds, dispute resolution and security of tenure.

The options paper – Heading for Home – follows more than a year of public consultation, seven issues papers and numerous stakeholder meetings as part of the Government’s Fairer, Safer Housing initiative.

The REIV has been heavily involved throughout the review process, responding to each of the issues papers and working alongside Consumer Affairs Victoria on behalf of the state’s property managers and landlords.

In our submissions, the REIV has called for streamlined termination processes for repeat offenders, the retention of the ‘no specified reason’ notice and shortened notice to vacate timeframes for rent arrears.

With landlords and property managers accounting for around 70 per cent of disputes brought before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), the REIV has called for significant improvements to the dispute resolution process. This includes greater consistency, internal appeals and enforcement of VCAT orders.

The REIV also supports the recognition and enforcement of additional contract terms, including ‘no pets’ clauses. The Institute strongly believes pets should only be permitted in rental properties by agreement between landlords and tenants.

In addition, the REIV has actively opposed any unfair changes that increase the financial burden to landlords or agents, such as further minimum property standards, which will undoubtedly impact on the supply of rental housing. Minimum standards for residential property are already established in Victoria – as set out in the Victorian Building Regulations and Codes.

These issues are further considered in the Heading for Home paper along with a range of other options which the REIV has opposed, including: property modifications without landlord consent, sub-letting without landlord approval, increasing the notice period for change of use terminations; and limiting access for a rental property that is being sold.

Following consultation, the Government will consider a comprehensive reform package and develop new legislation and regulations, which is expected to be introduced into the Victorian Parliament in 2018.

It’s important that any reform of the RTA meets the right balance between the rights of tenants and those of landlords – any imbalance will affect the supply and cost of rental housing, particularly at the lower end of the market.

Source: Joseph Walton