In September the Victorian Parliament passed the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2018. This trailblazing reform now means that as of 2020, Victorians renters will have some of the best protections in the country. The Bill includes more than 130 reforms providing increased protections for renters, while ensuring rental housing providers can still effectively manage their properties.
When the new laws come into effect, renters will be able to:
• have a pet with the written consent of their residential rental provider. Consent can only be reasonably refused through a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) order
• make certain modifications without first obtaining the residential rental provider's consent, such as installing picture hooks, and furniture anchors to stop televisions and other heavy items falling on children.
Other key changes will:
• require every rental home to meet basic minimum standards, to be set out in regulations, such as providing functioning stoves, heating and toilets
• require residential rental providers to undertake mandatory safety maintenance for gas, electricity, smoke alarms and pool fences
• implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence that relate to rental housing. These include:
• allowing victims to end a lease in family violence situations without first needing a final intervention order, and
• ensuring victims are not held unfairly liable for debts created by perpetrators of the violence
• allow caravan and residential park residents to seek compensation if their park closes
• clarify rights of entry and photography when a landlord needs to sell a rental property, and
• streamline the rules dealing with goods left behind at the end of a tenancy.
Work will continue next year on complementary reforms to provide easily accessible and informal dispute resolution through VCAT.
The reforms represent a significant achievement in an Australian private rental market which has undergone significant changes in the last 30 years. A higher proportion of people now rent as home ownership becomes more and more inaccessible and tenants now rent for longer.
The private rental sector has always catered for a broad range of renters. However, in the past a greater proportion were newly formed households, younger people and students for whom renting was commonly a relatively short-term transitional arrangement, which ended in a move to home ownership or to social housing.
Over time, an increasing number of families with children and older people on fixed incomes have become long-term renters for whom stability and security - and the opportunity to participate in their community over the longer term - are important to ensuring their health and well-being.
From the point of view of renters and the thousands of clients Tenants Victoria deal with every year, many of the changes are long overdue. With the success of the reform process in Victoria, tenants around the country are now looking to their state government to do the right thing and make renting fair.