Changes to residential tenancies law in Victoria
The law relating to residential tenancies in Victoria is governed principally by the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic).
On 29 March 2021, new changes came into effect for residential tenancies in Victoria, expanding the rights and responsibilities of many involved in a residential tenancy.
The reforms arising from these changes are for the most part, significant and critical and it is important that real estate agents, property owners and those residing at residential properties know what they are.
Some of these changes are as follows:
Change in terminology to tenants, landlords and agreements
Under the reforms, tenants are now known as 'renters', and landlords are now known as 'rental providers. What used to be known as as a 'residential tenancy agreement', 'tenancy agreement' or informally as 'a lease' is now known as a 'rental agreement'.
For renters moving in from 29 March 2021, rental providers must ensure that the property being leased is compliant with new rental standards that include but are not limited to ensuring that the house is structurally sound, that where laundry facilities are provided that a reasonable supply of both hot and cold water are available, that appropriate locks are in place for external entry doors and that the rooms in a property have adequate lighting and ventilation. There are also minimum standards in relation to bathrooms and toilets, which require that showerheads and toilets be minimum 3 star WELS rated.
There are exceptions to some of these new rules however, with some rules not applying to homes that have been heritage listed.
Prescribed information in rental agreements
Under the changes, rental agreement application forms are required to contain a statement that includes the specifically prescribed information set out in Form 3 (and as contained in Schedule 1 of the Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 (Vic).
Prohibited terms in rental agreements
Under the reforms, a rental agreement must not include a prohibited term, including but not limited to a term that:
requires a renter to take out any form of insurance;
exempts a rental provider or their agent from liability or which requires the renter to indemnify the rental provider;
requires the payment of rent by a method involving additional cost;
imposes liability for safety-related maintenance which is a rental provider's responsibility;
requires the renter to pay an increased amount of rent, the remaining rent, a penalty or liquidated damages if the rental agreement is breached;
requires the property to be professionally cleaned at the tenancy's end or for the renter to cover the costs of professional cleaning of the property, unless the term stipulates that it is required to restore the premises to the condition they were in immediately before the commencement of the tenancy taking into account fair wear and tear;
provides for the amount of rent to be reduced or a rebate to be paid if the renter does not breach the agreement
With the consent of the rental provider, renters are permitted to have a pet at the property being rented. It is important that when seeking consent, the prescribed form must be used. Upon receipt of the request, renters must not unreasonably refuse consent. If no response is provided by the rental provider to the renter within a certain time, consent is considered to have been given unless an application is made within the prescribed time to the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for an order that it would be reasonable to refuse consent.
Restrictions on disclosure
A rental provider or their agent cannot demand that a renter disclose, and a renter is not obligated to disclose:
whether they have ever been a party to an action or had a dispute with a rental provider;
their rental bond history;
a bank or credit card statement showing their transaction history
Under the reforms, there are new obligations on rental providers to ensure that gas, electricity and smoke alarm checks are carried out regularly and at the appropriate intervals. There are also new maintenance obligations in relation to properties which have swimming pools.
It is important that rental providers are aware of what these safety checks require to ensure adequate compliance.
This above is intended as a guide only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.
If you are a rental provider or a renter and would like more information about whether the property you are leasing or residing at complies with the new changes, or would like advice on what your rights and obligations are under the new changes, contact us today.
15 April 2021