Without much notice, amendments to Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act have come into force on 29 March 2021, bringing new changes to clarify the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords. In this article, we will set out some of the major changes that have been introduced to Victoria’s rental laws for you to consider when entering into a residential lease.
01 New changes to the law – prior to entering into a lease
- Real estate agents must advertise rental properties on fixed prices only. This disallows agents from encouraging tenants to bid against each other in order to drive up the rents.
- No discrimination allowed in the leasing process, in which landlords cannot refuse tenants’ requests for modifications due to physical disabilities.
- The bond cannot exceed a maximum of one month’s rent unless the rent exceeds a certain amount (i.e. $900 or more per week).
- For long-term tenants who have been renting for more than five years, agents may request an additional deposit with 120 days’ notice.
- If the tenant has signed the lease contract and the landlord or real estate agent has not signed but has accepted the rent, the lease contract is considered valid in law.
- Before the tenant can enter into the lease, the landlord must disclose relevant information regarding the property, including whether the property is on the market and whether the landlord is the legal owner of the property.
02 New changes to the law – during the lease term
- Tenants who keep pets in the leased property need to receive written consent from the landlord. However, the landlord cannot refuse to keep pets without reasonable reasons.
- Rent arrears – If a landlord issues an eviction notice for rent arrears, the notice will be deemed invalid if the tenant pays the rent within 14 days of the rent being overdue. A tenant can make no more than four late rent payments in a 12-month period. The landlord can issue an eviction notice and apply to VCAT for an order to repossess the premises after the tenant has missed the rent payment for the fifth time in 12 months.
- For fixed-term leases, if the landlord wishes to increase the rent, the amount of the rent increase or the method of calculation must be specified in the lease agreement.
- If the tenant breaches the lease, the landlord can issue a notice of breach to the tenant. If the tenant does not comply with the requirements within 7 days after receiving the notice, the landlord can apply to VCAT for a compensation or correction order.
- If the landlord cannot guarantee a quiet living environment for the tenant, the tenant can issue a notice of default to the landlord. If the landlord does not comply with the requirements within 7 days after receiving the notice, the tenant can apply to VCAT for a compensation or correction order.
- If a tenant receives a utility bill that exceeds the regular costs caused by a hidden fault at the premises such as a broken water pipe, the landlord is responsible for paying the excess.
03 New changes – the termination of leases
- The landlord must not terminate the lease without providing a valid reason. Valid reasons include selling the house, changing its use, demolishing the house or needing to move back to the residence. If the landlord’s reason is a change of use, the landlord must produce relevant documents such as a building permit.
- Additional ground for issuing notice of eviction – landlords have the right to issue eviction notices to tenants requiring them to leave within 14 days if there is serious threatening behaviour towards the landlord, estate agents or related personnel.
- Additional method for deposit refund requests – tenants can apply directly to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA) for a refund of part or all of their deposit, without the landlord’s permission.
- If the tenant leaves their personal items at property when they move out, the landlord must keep the items safely for 14 days after notifying the tenant.
- If the tenant vacates before the lease expires, the landlord can apply to VCAT for compensation, which will be calculated according to the loss caused to the landlord.
- If the tenant needs to move out before the lease expires for special reasons, such as attending a special personal medical treatment, etc., the tenant can give the landlord 14 days’ notice without the need of compensation.
- Banks or mortgage companies must give the tenant 60 days’ notice if they are to acquire the property.
04 New changes on housing conditions
- The new laws provide minimum standards regarding the conditions of rental properties, including door locks, ventilation, trash cans, toilets, bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, structural safety, protection from mound and dampness, electrical safety, window, lighting, and heating. Visit the following link for more details. https://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/housing/renting/changes-to-renting-laws/resources-for-practitioners/fact-sheet-26-rental-minimum-standards
- The scope of urgent repairs extends to air conditioning, security facilities, or conditions that affect the safety of living (such as pests, mould, or dampness).
- The tenant can organise and pay for the urgent repair if the rental provider or agent does not respond to the request given that the repair does not cost more than $2,500.
- The landlord must pay the tenant within 7 days the costs of reasonable urgent repairs requested by the tenant in writing.
- Under certain circumstances, tenants can carry out modifications such as replacing LED bulbs without the landlord’s permission. Visit the following link for more details. https://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/housing/renting/changes-to-renting-laws/resources-for-practitioners/fact-sheet-16-making-modifications-in-rental-properties
The new changes brought by amendments to Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act have made the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords more clear. Whether you are a tenant or a landlord, you need to understand the changes brought by these new laws. Fumens Lawyers is a multicultural legal team. If you encounter any questions during the house leasing process, or if you want to prepare legal documents for house leasing, please consult our experienced lawyers.