law changes: what will change?

    The rules for renting are changing in Victoria. The updated law, the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018, was passed by Victoria’s Parliament in early September 2018.

    The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 includes changes that will affect most tenants. Some of the key changes are set out below.

    Read about when these changes are happening and what comes next

    disclosure of information

    what’s changing?

    Landlords and real estate agents will need to use application forms that contain particular information and there will be limits on the kinds of information landlords and real estate agents can ask for.

    Landlords and real estate agents will not be able to persuade people to rent their property by using false, misleading or deceptive information. They will not be allowed to use false or misleading information in their advertising either.

    Before the lease begins, landlords and real estate agents will have to let tenants know:

    • if they are selling the property, or in the process of selling the property
    • if there is an enforcement action in place for the property
    • if they have a right to let the property
    • if the property is part of an embedded electricity network, and if it is, details about the network
    • any other “prescribed” information about the property, for example letting tenants know if there is asbestos in the property.

    what else needs to happen?

    The regulations for these laws are still being written. These regulations will decide what information landlords and agents can ask for and what information they need to tell people before they sign a lease.

    rental bidding

    what’s changing?

    Landlords and real estate agents will not be allowed to ask potential tenants for, or encourage potential tenants to offer, more money to rent their property than the amount it has been advertised for.

    condition report

    what’s changing?

    Condition reports will need to be in a particular form, and tenants will have more time to fill in the form than before – they will have 5 working days, instead of 3, to fill in the form and give it back to the landlord.

    If the landlord doesn’t give the tenant a condition report, the tenant will be able to complete one themselves and give it to the landlord within 5 days of starting their lease.

    If the property needs repairs, the tenant will be able to list these on the condition report, as it will be able to be used as the first official request to the landlord to get the repairs done.

    If the tenant or landlord don’t agree with what is written in the condition report or the condition report is incomplete, the tenant or landlord will be able to apply to VCAT for it to be changed/completed within 30 days of the start of the lease.

    When you’re moving out: The landlord or agent will need to complete the condition report again at the end of the lease. The tenant will need to be given an opportunity to be there while this is being done, but the landlord will be able to complete it by them self if the tenant can’t be there. This condition report has to be filled in no later than 10 days after the end of the lease.

    what else needs to happen?

    The regulations for these laws are still being written. These regulations will decide what information needs to be included in the Condition Report.

    rent and bonds

    what’s changing?

    Landlords and real estate agents will need to give tenants at least one way to pay rent that doesn’t charge fees, e.g. bank transfer.

    Landlords and real estate agents cannot raise the rent more than once every 12 months if the lease started on or after the 19 June 2019.

    Bonds will be set for most rental properties up to a certain threshold, though some tenants may be asked for an additional bond if their lease is longer than 5 years or if they want to make modifications to the property.

    The bond will be able to be released within 14 days of the end of a lease unless a tenant or landlord applies to VCAT to object to the release.

    what else needs to happen?

    The regulations for these laws are still being written. These regulations will decide the maximum thresholds for bonds and when landlords can ask for extra bonds.

    health and safety

    what’s changing?

    Rental properties will need to meet minimum standards before they can be leased. The list of minimum standards is not finished yet, however the list will include: locks on windows and deadlocks on outside doors (except screen doors), and the landlord must check the gas and electricity often to make sure it is safe.

    The landlord will have to make sure that the rental property is in good condition and make sure it is good enough to live in (‘reasonably fit and suitable for occupation’). Even if the property is old or rundown, or the rent is cheap, or even if the tenant doesn’t realise there are issues that need fixing, the landlord has to make sure the property is good enough to live in.

    The landlord must make sure that everyone who repairs the property is properly qualified to do the repairs.

    what else needs to happen?

    The regulations for these laws are still being written. These regulations will decide what the minimum standards are. The regulations will also make sure rules about gas and electricity safety checks agree with current building laws.

    urgent repairs

    what’s changing?

    More repairs will be considered “urgent repairs”.

    Types of repairs that will be added to the list of “urgent repairs” are:

    • broken air conditioners and other appliances that keep the rental property cool, if they are supplied by the landlord
    • broken safety equipment, including smoke alarms and pool fences
    • anything that makes a room or the property unsafe or insecure, including pest problems and mould or damp caused by the building’s structure
    • anything else on the list of minimum rental standards, once that list has been finalised.

    If there is a hearing at VCAT about repairs, VCAT will need to consider the guidelines of the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria’s (CAV) when making their orders.

    If a tenant pays for urgent repairs (up to a maximum amount set by the law), the landlord will need to pay them back within 7 days of the tenant asking to be paid back in writing.

    what else needs to happen?

    The regulations for these laws are still being written. These regulations will decide how much the tenant is allowed to pay for urgent repairs before having to apply to VCAT for repair orders. The CAV guidelines are also still being written.

    non-urgent repairs

    what’s changing?

    Tenants will be able to ask VCAT to order their landlord to make non-urgent repairs without having to wait for a report from the CAV.

    Tenants will still be able to ask for a report, and CAV can choose to prepare one, but they will no longer be required to do so or to carry out an investigation.

    If a tenant has applied to VCAT for orders that the landlord is to carry out non-urgent repairs, VCAT has to arrange a hearing within 7 days.

    Repairs and VCAT’s Rent Special Account: If a tenant asks to pay their rent to VCAT’s Rent Special Account at the same time as they are applying for repair orders (urgent or non-urgent), and VCAT makes an order that repairs are to be done, they will also have to make an order allowing the tenant to pay the rent into the Rent Special Account until the repairs are finished unless the landlord can prove to VCAT that there is a good financial reason why this should not happen.

    modifications

    what’s changing?

    Tenants will be able to make some small modifications to their rental property without having to ask the landlord first, but landlords will be able to still say no to some modifications.

    A landlord will be able to refuse modifications if:

    • they would significantly change the property
    • they would cause significant damage to the property
    • other areas or shared areas of the property would need to be modified as well
    • they are against the law
    • they would cost money to look after if they are not changed back
    • it would be impractical to change the property back to how it was.

    However, landlords will not be able to unreasonably refuse some small modifications that:

    • do not make a hole in the property or make permanent changes
    • are needed for health and safety purposes
    • connect the property to telephone and internet services
    • keep tenants warmer or cooler
    • reduce the amount of energy or water tenants use
    • any other modifications listed in this law.

    If a landlord says no to a small modification, the tenant will be able to apply to VCAT for a decision on it. VCAT will need to arrange a hearing within 5 business days.

    Tenants will have to make sure any modifications they make to the property are changed back at the end of their lease or give the landlord money to change it back, unless the landlord agrees to something else.

    The landlord may be able to ask for an extra bond amount proportionate to any modifications a tenant wants to make, but they will not be able to ask for extra bond if they agree the modifications don’t need to be changed back, or if the modifications are paid for by a scheme and do not need to be changed back, e.g. a solar grant program (see ‘Rent and bonds’).

    what else needs to happen?

    The regulations for these laws are still being written. These regulations will decide which small modifications the tenant can make without asking the landlord, which modifications the landlord should allow, and reasons why the landlord can reasonably say no to modifications.

    pets

    what’s changing?

    Tenants will be able to keep a pet, but they will have to get consent from the landlord in writing first.

    If the landlord doesn’t want a tenant to keep a pet, they will have to have a good reason why not, and will need to apply to VCAT within 14 days of the tenant asking for permission. VCAT will then decide whether the tenant can keep a pet.

    If the landlord doesn’t give their consent and doesn’t apply to VCAT within 14 days of the tenant asking for the consent in writing, the tenant will be able to keep a pet.

    If the landlord thinks the tenant is keeping a pet without asking for consent, they will be able to ask VCAT to order the tenant to get rid of the pet.

    If VCAT makes an order that a tenant needs to get rid of the pet, and the tenant still hasn’t done this within 14 days of the date in the order, the landlord will be able to give the tenant a 28-day notice to vacate.

    what else needs to happen?

    Regulations for this law are still being written. These regulations may cover when it is okay for a landlord to say no to tenants keeping a pet, and what type of form tenants need to fill in to ask for consent.

    privacy and entry

    what’s changing?

    Landlords will have to follow new laws about when people can inspect the rental property if it is going to be rented to new tenants or sold, and they may have to give the tenant compensation (e.g. money or reduced rent).

    Showing the property to new tenants: If a tenant is given a notice to vacate by the landlord, or they give their notice of intention to vacate to the landlord, and the landlord wants to show the property to potential tenants they will be able to have an open house inspection, but only if:

    • they have given the tenant at least 48 hours notice in writing
    • they do not book a time for the inspection outside the hours of 8.00am to 6.00pm and not on a public holiday
    • the inspection is held in the last 21 days of the tenancy and not before
    • they do not hold more than 2 inspections a week and the inspections do not go for more than 1 hour each, unless the tenant agrees otherwise.

    The property is being sold: If the property is being sold, and the landlord or real estate agent wants to show the property to people interested in buying it, they will be able to have an open house inspection, but only if:

    • they have given the tenant a notice of the intention to sell the property at least 14 days before they want to have an inspection
    • they have given the tenant at least 48 hours notice of the inspection in writing
    • they do not book a time for the inspection outside the hours of 8.00am to 6.00pm and not on a public holiday
    • they make all reasonable efforts to have the inspection at a time and day that suits the tenant
    • they do not have more than 2 inspections a week and the inspections do not go for more than 1 hour each, unless the tenant agrees otherwise.

    The tenant will have a right to compensation if there are sales inspections carried out at their home.

    Taking photos or video: If the landlord or real estate agent wants to take photos or videos to advertise the property they will be able to, but only if:

    • they have given the tenant 7 days’ notice in writing
    • they do not book a time to come to the property for this reason outside the hours of 8.00am to 6.00pm and not on a public holiday
    • they make all reasonable efforts to book a time and day that suits the tenant.

    Objecting to photos or video: Tenants will be able to object to having their personal possessions photographed or filmed if:

    • they might identify the tenant
    • they might identify a person living at the property who is at risk of family violence
    • they might show sensitive information
    • they might increase the risk of theft e.g. they could show expensive property which people might want to steal
    • it would be hard for the tenant to move the personal property out of the way.

    If a tenant wanted to object they would need to put this in writing to the landlord.

    what else needs to happen?

    The regulations for this law are still being written. The regulations will decide how much compensation a tenant is entitled to when there are sales inspections at their home.

    evictions

    what’s changing?

    No reason notices: Notices to vacate with ‘no specified reason’ will not be allowed anymore.

    End of fixed term notices: When tenants are on a fixed term lease (e.g. 6-month or 12-month lease) landlords will only be able to use the reason ‘end of the fixed term lease’ at the end of the first fixed term of the lease. They cannot use that reason after the first fixed term is over.

    Notices for threats & intimidation: If the tenant or someone living with the tenant has seriously threatened or intimidated the landlord or anyone working for the landlord, the landlord will be able to give them a 14-day Notice to Vacate.

    Evidence for some notices: For some notices the landlord will also need to include extra evidence to prove why they are asking the tenant to leave.

    Notices for rent arrears: If a tenant gets a notice to vacate for rent arrears and the landlord takes that to VCAT for a Possession Order to regain possession of the property, VCAT may give the tenant more time to get financial counselling or other support.

    what else needs to happen?

    Regulations for these laws are still being written. The regulations include creating a new Notice to Vacate form. The regulations will also decide what kind of extra evidence a landlord needs to use to back up their Notice to Vacate as well as what sort of support services VCAT can ask tenants to use if they are at risk of being evicted for being behind in the rent.

    family violence protections

    what’s changing?

    If another tenant in your house is being violent towards you or has been violent towards you, you will be able to apply to VCAT to end your lease and start a new one without that person’s name on it.

    Modifications: If you are victim/survivor of family violence and you want to modify your rented property for safety reasons (e.g. CCTV), your landlord will have to allow it unless they have a really good reason. When you move out you may have to change the property back to how it was unless you have an agreement with your landlord. See “Modifications” above for more information.

    Privacy and entry: If there is a “protected person” (a person with a family violence or personal safety intervention order) living at the property and the landlord wants to rent or sell the property, you will be able to tell the landlord you do not want to have open inspections. The landlord will still be able to show people around the property, but they will need to make an appointment rather than hold open inspections.

    And if the landlord or their agent want to come to the property to take photos or video for advertising purposes the tenant will be able to object to these being taken if they could identify someone living there who is at risk of family or personal violence.

    Tenant databases: A tenant will not be able to be listed on a tenancy database (i.e. ‘blacklist’) for a breach of their agreement if the breach was due to them experiencing family violence. If a landlord, their agent, or a database operator wants to list, or has listed, personal information about a tenant in cases like this VCAT will be able to order them not to list it or to remove it.

    Bond claims: If you are the victim/survivor of family violence and the landlord wants to take some of your bond after you’ve moved out to pay for damage or loss caused by the perpetrator, VCAT will be able to decide you don’t have to pay.

    what else needs to happen?

    Regulations are still being written. They will decide what types of evidence VCAT can consider when family violence is involved.

    Tenants Victoria will keep fighting alongside family violence organisations to protect tenants affected by family violence.

    goods left behind

    what’s changing?

    Currently, when tenants move out, the landlord has to look after some things they leave behind. For example, if tenants leave personal documents behind, the landlord has to look after them for a certain amount of time and let the tenants know that they have their documents. Under the new laws, the landlord will have to look after a wider range of things tenants might leave behind when they move out.

    The landlord will have to store these things for up to 14 days before they can sell them or get rid of them, but if tenants want them back, the landlord will be able to ask tenants to pay storage fees. Tenants will be able to apply to VCAT to ask for extended storage times if 14 days is not long enough for the tenant to arrange to get their things back.

    If the landlord sells the tenant’s things after they move out, the tenant will be able to ask for the money from the sale of their things – but the tenant will have to ask for the money within 6 months of their things being sold. The landlord will be allowed to keep some of the money to pay for storing the things.

    If tenants don’t ask for the money from the sale of their things within 6 months, the landlord will have to put the money into a special account called the Residential Tenancies Fund within 30 days.

    what else needs to happen?

    The regulations for these laws are still being written. The regulations will decide which goods have to be stored by the landlord.

    landlord non-compliance register

    what’s changing?

    If VCAT decides that a landlord has breached their duties under the law, or has to pay money to tenants in compensation for breaching their duties, the landlord’s name will be able to be added to a new list called the ‘Landlord Non-Compliance Register’. The Landlord Non-Compliance register will be created by the CAV.

    The Landlord Non-Compliance Register will have similar rules to tenant ‘blacklists’. Landlords will not be able to be listed for more than 3 years, and they will be able to apply to VCAT to having a listing corrected or removed if it is out of date or incorrect.

    what else needs to happen?

    CAV has to decide what the Landlord Non-Compliance Register will look like, what information will be publicly available and where it will be published.

     

    Read about when these changes are happening and what comes next

     

    Tenants Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.