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Changes To Landlords Rights and Responsibilities

There have been a number of significant changes to the Residential Tenancies Act and now that we're 12 months in, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the ones we've had the most questions about from our clients.  

The changes came quick and fast and as a landlord (will the first change is that you’re now referred to as a ‘Rental Provider’ not landlord) your rights and responsibilities have changed and understanding those changes will allow for a much easier tenancy for all parties.   

So let's start with changes to finding you a tenant (and there’s the second change – they're now referred to as ‘Renters’): 

·        When advertising a property, we as agents must specify a fixed price on the rental listing and cannot invite potential renters to submit 'rental bids’ above the advertised price. Renters can choose to offer a higher rent, on their own accord.  

·        The amount we can request as a bond for a 12 month lease has been capped to one months rent unless the property is over $900pw.   

The legislation also introduced some minimum standards that each rental property must meet, these include: 

·        Energy efficient shower heads with a minimum efficiency rating of 3 or above 

·        A cooktop with two or more burners 

·        There must be a functioning heater in the main living room with a minimum energy efficiency rating of 2 

·        Curtains or blinds must be installed in any room which is likely to be used as a bedroom or living room 

Renter safety was also a key agenda in the legislation, with Rental Providers now having to do regular safety compliance checks of the following: 

·        Smoke Alarms were again included in the legislation and Rental Providers are responsible for fitting smoke alarms in their rental properties. The smoke alarms must be checked annually to ensure they’re in good working order and meet the most recent fire safety standards. 

·        Rental Providers are now also responsible for conducting gas and electrical safety checks on all devices with their property every two years.  

Tenants can request compliance certificates and they must be provided to them to avoid fines. Most of our clients have chosen to use Detector Inspector to conduct the annual smoke alarm checks and gas and electrical every second year.  

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The legislation also increased the minimum amount Renters can pay to have urgent maintenance attended to. Renters can pay up to $2500 for an urgent repair and be reimbursed by the Rental Provider if they had reasonable attempts to contact the rental provider or agent and did not receive a response in a reasonable timeframe.  

Urgent Maintenance is defined as the following: 

·        Burst hot water service 

·        Blocked or broken toilet 

·        Major roof leak 

·        Gas leak 

·        Major electrical fault 

·        Flooding or flood damage 

·        Failure or breakdown of any essential service or appliance provided by a rental provider for hot water, water, cooking, heating or laundry 

·        Failure or breakdown of any gas, electricity or water supply 

·        Any damage or fault which makes the premises immediately unsafe or unsecure 

·        Serious fault in a lift or staircase 

One of the more controversial changes was the ability for renters to make modifications to your property without seeking approval from the landlord. This includes installing picture hooks, wall mounting TV’s and installing certain security devices. Other changes like painting walls, changing blinds etc can also be done but require the owner to be notified. Any changes made to the property will need to be brought back to the condition the property was originally leased in.  

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Renters also do have the right now to keep pets at the property with the owners approval and rental applications cannot be refused due to tenants having a pet. As the property owner, if you would like to refuse your tenants from having a pet, you must apply to VCAT and argue why it is unreasonable for the renters to have a pet in the property.  

The way we can end a tenancy has also changed, the main change here was the removal of the 120-day notice to vacate for no reason – allowing a landlord to end a tenancy for reason other than them wanting too.   

Under the new changes, once a tenant gets 14 days behind in their rent, a Notice to Vacate can be issued – however, if the rent is paid prior to a VCAT order being issued, the notice is no longer valid. This can occur four times in a 12 month period. If rent is 14 days late for a fifth time within 12 months, the rental provider can apply to VCAT for a possession order and have the tenant evicted.  

The reasons for ending a tenancy and the timeframes have also changed as has the evidence requirements for submitting the notice to vacate. Any notice given for the owner moving back into the property, property being sold or renovations must come with proof. 

More information can be found on the Consumer Affairs website.