25 Feb 20
Changes to the residential tenancy laws in Queensland are still under consultation and are expected to cover five priority areas, these being housing quality and minimum standards, renting with pets, minor modifications, domestic and family violence, ending a tenancy fairly.
New South Wales
More than 130 changes to residential tenancy laws in New South Wales will come into action on 23 March 2020 covering:
Properties will need to meet new minimum standards to be fit for habitation including structural soundness, adequate light and ventilation, electricity and gas supply for lighting and heating, plumbing and drainage including hot and cold water, private bathroom and washing facilities
There are new penalties for landlords who fail to install and maintain smoke alarms. Tenants are now obliged to notify the landlord if a smoke alarm needs repair or if they choose to replace a battery.
Tenants will be permitted to undertake minor alterations without consent, such as hanging picture hooks, installing curtains and safety devices, replacing toilet seats and planting a herb garden.
New break fees will apply for tenants who cancel a fixed-term agreement. Costs range from four weeks’ rent if they are less than 25% into the term of the lease, to one weeks’ rent if the lease is already 75% over. This applies to agreements entered after 23 March 2020.
Victoria’s residential tenancy laws will come into effect mid-year and will affect leases signed after 1 July 2020. Reforms include:
Property owners will have a duty to ensure their rental property meets new minimum standards to be set in April 2020. A register will be established blacklisting residential rental providers and agents who fail to meet their obligations.
Rent increases outside fixed-term agreements will be limited to once a year. For rent increases during a fixed-term rental agreement, the amount or calculation method must be set out in the agreement.
Renters can keep pets with consent. Landlords can apply to VCAT for an order that it is reasonable to refuse permission.
Renters will be able to make prescribed minor modifications to the property without the landlord’s permission. A list of prescribed modifications is due to be released in April 2020. Landlords can request the property be returned to its original condition before tenants vacate.
Urgent repairs now include problems with air-conditioning, safety devices and any fault or damage which makes the property unsafe or insecure including pests, mould or damp. Landlords must reimburse the cost of repairs within seven days.
The changes end ‘no fault’ evictions by removing the ‘no specified reason’ notice to vacate and restrict the use of ‘end of the fixed-term’ notices to vacate. Landlords will still be able to issue a notice to vacate at the end of the first term of a fixed-term agreement; however, for any subsequent terms, they must provide a reason to vacate the property.
Safeguards will be implemented to help protect tenants experiencing domestic violence. VCAT can rule on the termination of residential agreements or create a new agreement that excludes the perpetrator of the violence.
Australian Capital Territory
New residential tenancy laws came into effect on 1 November 2019 including:
Tenants can have a pet without the landlord’s consent unless there is a specific clause in their contract. Then, a landlord must seek approval from ACAT if they want to refuse permission.
Rents can only increase by 10 per cent more than the Canberra CPI unless the increase is permitted in the tenancy agreement, agreed by both the landlord and tenant or approved by ACAT.
Tenants can make minor modifications to the property, such as adding picture hooks, without landlord permission. They can also make other modifications in special circumstances, such as alterations that improve safety, access to telecommunication services, secure the property, or assist tenants with a disability.
Landlords will no longer calculate break lease fees based on the rent. Tenants will have to pay the costs incurred by the landlord, i.e. the lost rent, before a new tenant is found and the costs of re-advertising the property.
South Australia overhauled its residential tenancy laws several years ago to incorporate new requirements governing a landlord’s right to enter premises and termination of agreements. The reforms have been effective since July 2017.
Western Australia is in the process of reviewing its residential tenancy laws for the first time in 10 years. Matters under consideration include long-term tenancies, applications and disclosures, register of landlords, rent increases, repairs and maintenance, pets, modifications, terminating leases and bond claims.
The Tasmanian Government passed new residential tenancy laws in 2018 in a bid to improve access and affordability to rental housing and assist victims fleeing family violence. The reforms included changes to bond payments and implemented accommodation requirements of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Tasmanian Select Committee on Housing Affordability may recommend further changes and is due to report on 5 March 2020.
The Northern Territory is currently undertaking a residential tenancy laws review. Matters under consideration include charging break lease fees, condition reports, rent increases, terminating leases, serving notices and repairs.