The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2018 (Vic) (‘the Bill’) was introduced at the Victorian Legislative Assembly on 7 August 2018 by the Minister for Consumer Affairs Marlene Kairouz. The Bill is the culmination of a four-year review into the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic) (‘the Act’). If passed, the Bill will enact over 130 reforms to the Act, which aim to strengthen the rights of renters, protect vulnerable tenants and clarify renter responsibilities.
With more than a quarter of Victorians renting their home and a third having rented continuously for over a decade, the Victorian Government says it has identified an increasing need for better protection for renters. The Government also says there has been a shift in demographics of both renters and landlords. More renters are either elderly on fixed incomes or families who require more stability. More landlords are now investors and retirees, who require more security in the income that the rent the properties bring.
The Bill will set a basic standard that every rental home must meet, including functioning stoves, heating and deadlocks. Amenities such as gas, electricity and smoke alarms will also need to meet basic standards. Rent increases and bonds will also be more closely regulated, with rent increases limited to only once a year, and bonds capped at a month’s rent. Tenure will also be more secured as ‘no fault’ evictions are removed. Pre-contractual disclosure of material facts will also become mandatory, this will cover things such as intention to sell the rented property and known presence of asbestos.
Renters will also be extended additional rights to make minor adjustments to their home without the need to first obtain their landlord’s consent. Pet owners will also be better protected; landlords will now only be able to refuse the right to have a pet through an order of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (‘VCAT’).
The Bill will also enact reforms to assist in situations of family violence. Renters will be able to terminate rental agreements in situations of family violence, and the new reforms will ensure that victims are not held liable for the debts of their abusers. These reforms specifically address the recommendations made by the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence in their final report, which was presented on 29 March 2016.
The Bill will also make reforms that extend to renters living in caravan and residential parks, and provide provisions for compensation should their park close. Furthermore, park owners will also be subject to stricter notification and processes before they are able to close down their park.
In addition to increasing protections for renters, the Bill also clarifies renters’ responsibilities to protect landlords. Under the Bill, tenancies will be able to be terminated if a renter has seriously threatened or intimidated their landlord, agent, contractor or employee of either. Termination for repeated non-payment will also have a more structured process.
The Bill also strengthens existing penalties for non-compliance, strengthening incentives for compliance. In addition to these reforms, the Government will continue to work with VCAT in order to support the Bill by providing accessibly, complementary and effective dispute resolution.
The Minister for Consumer Affairs Marlene Kairouz has commented:
“This is the biggest reform to renting in Victoria’s history – cracking down on rental bidding and making it easier and faster to get your bond back.”
The Department of Justice and Regulation has said on its Fairer Safer Housing site:
“While some of the changes may be seen as unfair by some supply-side stakeholders, for a large number of rental providers they reflect current practice. In this respect, the changes to the legislation are not without precedent and are, in fact, supported by a number of suppliers of rental housing. The reform package aims to bring the rest of the market up to a consistent standard.”
TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.
Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2018 (Vic), explanatory material, Assembly second reading speech and compatibility statement available from TimeBase's LawOne service
FREE legislation news, delivered weekly.
Sign up now.#WeLoveLegislation Tweets
NEW information resources - great for training.