tenancy laws

With more than a quarter of all Victorians now renting, either by choice or circumstance, the Victorian Government has announced significant changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 to help tenants feel more at home in their rental property.

Lucas has a proud history of exceptional property management and we welcome changes to the rental landscape that will make renting easier for tenants. As always, we will ensure our landlords comply with the Residential Tenancies Act in full, but also act to safeguard the current and future value of our landlord’s asset.

Whilst the process to amend the Residential Tenancies Act is already underway and changes are planned to pass through parliament next year, once completed there will be greater clarification about the amendments to existing tenancy laws and the timing of these proposed changes:

Rental Security
The removal of the 120 day ‘no specified reason’ notice to vacate from the Residential Tenancies Act will necessitate landlords to specify the reason for end of tenancy. Landlords will also only be able to end tenancies using an ‘end of fixed term’ notice to vacate at the end of the first fixed term. Tenants who receive this notice will now be able to give 14 days’ notice to vacate, rather than having to wait until the end of their lease.

Landlords and agents will be prohibited from making false, misleading or deceptive representations to induce a tenant, with breaches of this requirement able to be compensated or lease ended subsequently through VCAT. Obligatory pre-contract disclosure of important information, such as the presence of asbestos or intention to sell the property, will be also mandatory.

Tenant Rights
A Commissioner for Residential Tenancies will be appointed to champion the rights of Victorian tenants in the private sector, to help identify systemic issues and give tenants a voice in seeking changes to the rental laws in future.

Currently tenants who breach their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act can find their name on a tenant ‘blacklist’, landlords and real estate agents will also now be subjected to similar measures.

Faster Payments & Rental Bonds
Tenants who lodge their bond form to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA), without objection from the landlord or managing agent, will be able to receive their bond after 14 days. By agreement with their landlord, tenants can seek release of their bond up to 14 days before the end of their tenancy. Disputes over bond release remain unaffected by any changes and will still allow for any apportion required.

To improve the up-front affordability of renting, properties rented at less than double the median weekly rent will only be able to obtain a bond equivalent to one month’s rent. Upfront rent will also be limited to the sum of one month’s rent for these properties. Landlords will be able to obtain an exemption from VCAT to require a higher bond. Linking reforms to the median weekly rent, currently at $380, will help ensure the up-front affordability of obtaining a rental property into the future.

Tenants who have paid for urgent repairs up to the authorised limit will also be able to seek reimbursement from the landlord for the reasonable costs of repairs within seven days, instead of 14.

Fair Priced Rent
Landlords and agents must advertise rental properties at a fixed price and not invite tenants to make an offer at a price higher than the asking price. Rental increases will also now only be allowed every 12 months and must be reasonable. Tenants will have the right to appeal to VCAT if they believe a rental increase is excessive compared to the current market average.

Tenants will be allowed to keep pets provided that they have obtained the landlord’s written consent first. Landlords will not be able to unreasonably refuse the request, however outgoing tenants will be required to undertake cleaning and fumigation in the event that pet-related damage goes beyond fair wear and tear.

A tenant will still require the landlord’s written consent to install fixtures or modify the property, however the landlord will not be able to unreasonably refuse consent to certain types of modifications, such as hooks for picture frames. For any modifications, the landlord may require the tenant to use a suitably qualified person to undertake any changes.

Lucas will continue to keep you abreast of any changes that could affect property owners, investors and tenants. To discuss how these proposed changes will affect you in further detail, or for a free report detailing recently leased properties in your building or suburb, please contact our award-winning property management team on 9091 1400.