What do Victoria’s recent rental laws mean for landlords?

On 29 March 2021, new residential tenancy laws were introduced, impacting every tenant and landlord in Victoria.

On 29 March 2021, new residential tenancy laws were introduced, impacting every tenant and landlord in Victoria. The commencement date of 1 July 2020 for the 132 new reforms pursuant to the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 was delayed as a result of COVID-19.

The new rental laws aim to set minimum standards for rental properties in Victoria and clarify the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords. The new residential tenancy laws will encapsulate all stages of the end to end rental process, from before the rental agreement is signed, right until the agreement comes to an end. This includes repairs and modification to rooming houses, long term leases, notices to vacate and pet ownership.

What are some of the key changes?

Below is a quick summary on the key changes:

End of ‘no reason’ notices to vacate

Previously, landlords could give notices to vacate without having to provide a reason. This is no longer a valid basis for removing a tenant. Landlords must provide a valid reason if they want to give a notice to vacate.

The only exception to this is an ‘end of fixed term’ notice to vacate, which can be given without a more specific reason, provided the termination date coincides with the end of your fixed term lease. This sort of notice can only give given at the end of the first fixed-term, and cannot be given for any subsequent fixed term.

Tenants may be able to contest a notice to vacate on grounds of invalidity, or if they believe it has been given in response to a tenant exercising, or trying to exercise, their rights.

Evidence for notices to vacate

Some notices to vacate now require evidence to be attached as set out by Consumer Affairs Victoria. For example, if the landlord wants to undertake major renovations, they must provide evidence such as a copy of the relevant building permit with the notice to vacate. If the notice to vacate is being issued because the landlord wants to sell the property, they must attach evidence such as the signed contract of sale and their agreement with a sales agent.

Compliance

The new regulations mean that landlords need to comply with various laws concerning matters such as electrical/gas checks, regulations for pools and spas, and water tanks where that is now mandatory for fire-prone areas.

Rental Property Modifications

Under the new residential tenancy laws, “renters” will be allowed to make prescribed modifications to the property without the consent of the “rental provider”.

Leasing, Keys and Locks

There are also specific changes to leasing terminology, the disclosure of personal and property information, the cleaning of the home at hand over, and the number of sets of keys to give to tenants.

Pets

Landlords can no longer unreasonably refuse a pet in their rental property. However, tenants must still ask for permission.

Urgent Repairs and Maintenance

The definition of urgent repairs has been expanded and now includes serious faults that impact on safety and use of the property

Modifications to Minimum Standards

Rental properties now need to meet a new set of minimum standards in their accommodation offering. Basic needs like fixed heating in main living rooms, functioning kitchens with ovens and cooktops, locks on all doors and curtains for privacy.

What do the key changes mean for landlords?

The raft of new residential tenancy laws will undoubtedly place extra pressure on landlords in Victoria. It is conceivable these key changes are likely to lead to landlords charging a higher rent, or worse, discourage property investment altogether in the State.

Landlords will need to keep equip themselves with knowledge of the key changes in order to comply and to ensure the regulations are implemented effectively.

How can Sharrock Pitman Legal help?

If you are a landlord and would like to discuss your obligations under the new regulations or seek guidance on how to comply, you may wish to have a lawyer advise you on your legal position. Please do not hesitate to contact our Property Law team on 1300 205 506 or alternatively fill in the contact form below.

The information contained in this article is intended to be of a general nature only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Any legal matters should be discussed specifically with one of our lawyers.

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

For further information contact  
Andre Ong

Andre is a Principal of Sharrock Pitman Legal.

He heads our Property Law Group and is an Accredited Specialist in Property Law (accredited by the Law Institute of Victoria).  He also deals with Commercial Law. For further information, contact Andre Ong on his direct line (03) 8561 3317.

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