Victoria’s residential tenancy laws have changed, as of Monday 29 March, with tenants and owners alike to experience a raft of updates to the state’s rental legislation.
Despite delays due to COVID-19, the Government said that the reforms would “make renting fair for all Victorians”.
The changes cover a range of amendments to the tenancy act.
Landlords and property managers were previously able to enforce strict rules about modifications to homes. Now, landlords are required to have a “reasonable reason” to prevent tenants from making alterations to the house, such as installing pet doors, installing a new dishwasher, planting a garden or painting the premises.
The change does not include significant renovations or structural changes to the property. Essentially, as long as the modifications can be reasonably reversed, the change should be allowed. Changes such as picture hooks or screws, non-hardwired security systems and safety gates for kids are all allowed without informing the landlord.
Real Estate Institute of Victoria’s Consumer Affairs department has explained that it isn’t an open season for tenants to paint all the property walls or make amendments.
REIV President Leah Calnan explains that “at the end of the tenancy, it does need to be returned to the neutral colour of cream or white or whatever it might have been.
“The landlord can also set some criteria around how that painting would be conducted.”
Another significant change that has come into effect is owning pets in rental tenancies, which requires an application from the tenant. Once approved, pets are welcome into the home, and landlords require ‘reasonable grounds’ to refuse a pet application. That application process does not negate strata laws or rules that apply in apartment complexes.
Perhaps most importantly, the new laws mean that tenants are guaranteed specific minimum standards in new tenancies. The property’s advertised price must be what is agreed, meaning that agents cannot solicit higher offers from prospective tenants, and a maximum of one month’s rent is to be used as a bond unless the property’s weekly rental rate is above $900.
Also, landlords are responsible for meeting specific property standards upon the commencement of a new lease. For example, door locks must be in place; the property must meet electrical safety standards, have hot and cold water, and have well-maintained heating, lighting and windows. Tenants can terminate their rental agreement if these standards aren’t met upon their move-in date.
Leaving a lease is now more evenly balanced, with tenants able to apply to the Rental Tenancies Bond Authority to receive their full bond amount, whether the landlord agrees or not. Disputes must be accompanied by evidence showing a landlord’s VCAT claim for compensation – otherwise, the bond will be paid to the tenant. The aim is to prevent protracted disagreements over bond payments and settle any disputes quickly and fairly.