What does the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill mean for renters?

Originally published on Make Renting Fair.

 

On 7 August 2018, the Victorian Government introduced a bill to Parliament – colloquially known as the ‘RentFair” Bill – that will amend the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).

While this bill is not perfect, we believe that it is measured and balanced.  The changes outlined in the bill will provide renters with better protections without disadvantaging landlords, enabling them to make safe, healthy and happy lives for themselves and their families.  These reforms are largely sensible and provide an importance balance that current legislation lacks.

Keeping families safe and stable

For the first time in the state’s history, rental properties will be required to meet minimum health, safety and energy efficiency standards.  While the regulations that specify the detail of the standards will be made later, it has been confirmed that certain key issues such as locks, heating and insulation will be included.  Another big win for health and safety: Mould and pest infestation will now be classified as urgent repairs.

These changes are a big boon for so many renters who live in poor quality housing.  At the same time, meeting certain standards will enable landlords to maintain the value of their investment.

Tenants will also no longer be subject to ‘no reason’ notices to vacate.  Tenants will be able to feel secure in their living situation, finally able to put down roots and make positive connections with their local communities.

Making your house feel like home

The bill clarifies tenants’ rights and responsibilities surrounding the little things that make a house feel like home.

Tenants will be able to undertake certain minor modifications such as hanging picture hooks and vital safety modifications like anchoring furniture to prevent injury.

They will also be able to own a pet with the landlord’s permission, with consent automatically assumed if the landlord does not respond within 14 days.

These changes are fair and balanced – tenants will still have to seek permission for most modifications and to own a pet, but landlords will not be able to unreasonably refuse these requests..

Protecting vulnerable tenants

Recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Family Violence are also included in the bill.

Tenants affected by family violence will be able to make an application to have their abuser removed from the lease.  They can also have themselves removed from a tenancy blacklist, and VCAT will have increased powers to make order to support victims of family violence.

Too many tenants face the impossible decision to stay in a dangerous situation or face homelessness.  These changes are a good start toward helping victims of family violence escape a bad situation and be secure in their homes once they have done so.

Making bonds and rent more affordable

This bill will also take great strides toward making renting more affordable for many households by capping bonds for most rental properties and enabling faster repayment of bonds when both parties agree.  It will also ban landlords and property managers from soliciting higher bids for rental properties, and limits rent increases to once per year.

Protecting renters’ privacy

This bill provides much needed clarification surrounding the rights and responsibilities of both parties when a rental property is sold, including giving tenants the ability to request permission not to have their personal possessions photographed for advertising purposes.  This will allow them to keep their possessions and families safe from burglary.  It is also a vital protection for tenants affected by family violence, who run the risk of being identified when their personal possessions are plastered across real estate advertising.

The ‘RentFair’ Bill has now passed through the Lower House and will soon be debated in the Upper House.  With only six sitting days left until the Government shuts down for the year is that Parliament will run out of time to pass the bill while MPs argue about ideology.

Make Renting Fair is calling for action on the ‘RentFair’ Bill without delay.  We urge all Upper House MPs to work together to get this over the line so that generations of renters can live in safe, stable and private homes – be it on the way to homeownership or into retirement.

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How can I help?

There are the top five things you can do to help us make sure the ‘RentFair’ Bill is made into law:

  1. Email your local Upper House MP. You can do this in less than two minutes at: makerentingfair.org/takeaction_rentfair
  2. Call your local Upper House MP to ask them to vote YES or schedule a time to meet with them and share your story. You can find their contact details at: makerentingfair.org/callyourmp
  3. Take a ‘Fair Go’ selfie. We will make sure Upper House MPs see your photos and understand that the whole community is backing this legislation.  Upload your photos at: makerentingfair.org/fairgoselfies
  4. Make a big impact by organising a phone call or letter writing party with other supporters in your neighbourhood, school or community group.
  5. Share your story with your local paper to show everyone why this legislation is so important. Contact Communications Adviser Devon LaSalle on dlasalle[at]tuv.org.au for assistance.