Changes to The Residential Tenancies Act Explained

The most recent changes to the Residential Tenancies Act were passed by the Victorian Parliament in   September 2018 and will come into force progressively by 1 July 2020.  We have provided a summary of some of the reforms to give you an idea of what to expect. 

Tenants can make minor modifications

A tenant will be allowed to make certain modifications to properties without obtaining the landlords consent. The details are still to be determined however, we expect them to include  picture hooks and furniture anchors.

Landlords must give a reason to end a tenancy    

There is no longer the option to give 120 days notice for ‘no specified reason’. In practice this will mean that landlords will only be able to end a tenancy for a reason specified under the Act such as selling or renovating.

Pre—contractual disclosure                                     

Landlords must now disclose important Information, if known, before a new tenant signs a lease. For example if there are any plans to sell or develop and if it is known that there is asbestos at the property which has been pre        identified.

Landlord Blacklist                                                      

Landlords may now find themselves on a so called ‘blacklist’ should they be found to continue to breach their obligations under the new changes to the Act.

Changes to bond repayment                                   

Under this change the onus is reversed as tenants may now lodge for the return of their bond and if it is not disputed by the landlord within 14 days it is automatically paid out by the RTBA. A tenant will also be allowed to apply for their bond to partially be released prior to the tenancy ending subject to the landlords agreement.      

 No more rental bidding                                           

Properties may only be advertised at a fixed price.  Properties are not allowed to be advertised with a price range. Landlords or agents will not be allowed to solicit higher offers from tenants however, prospective tenants are still allowed to offer more than the advertised price of their own volition.

Rents

Rent will only be allowed to be increased every 12 months instead of every 6 months. Rent increases must also be   reasonable and in line with current market expectations.  Tenants will be able to dispute rent increases to Consumer Affairs and VCAT.

Updated caps on bonds

The amount of bond that can be collected will be strictly limited to no more than one month’s rent for any  property for where the weekly rent is less than double the median weekly rent.

Pets in rental properties

Tenants will have the right to keep pets, provided they   obtain written permission from the landlord. Permission can only be refused by an order sought from VCAT. In the case of an assistance dog, permission cannot be refused.

Urgent Repairs

Agents and landlords must immediately act on urgent    repairs reported by tenants. Tenants will be able to   authorise repairs for urgent maintenance up to $1,800.00 and must receive reimbursement from the landlord within 7 days. Under the Residential Tenancies Act, urgent repairs include:

* burst water service or gas leak

* blocked or broken toilet system

* serious roof leak

* dangerous electrical fault

* flooding or serious flood damage

* failure of any essential service or appliance provided by the landlord for hot water, water, cooking, heating, or laundering

* failure of the gas, electricity or water supply

* anything which makes the premises  unsafe or insecure

* An appliance, fitting or fixture that is not working and causes a substantial amount of water to be wasted