Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act – there is still time to make an impact
A lot has changed since 1997. Email, the internet and smart phones have transformed communication and the way we do business. The cost of home ownership has risen, as has the number of people moving to Victoria, which increases the number of people in the rental market.
Yet 1997 was the last time Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act was reviewed.
“The current Act is definitely out of date,” says REIV Board member and General Manager, Property Management, Jellis Craig Boroondara, Sophie Lyon.
“Working within an Act that does not address email as an acceptable communication tool or provide the ability to gain access to take photos for a marketing campaign, shows how out of touch the Act is with reality.”
The RTA review is an important part of the state government's responsibility to ensure that the rental sector is appropriately meeting the requirements and expectations of both landlords and tenants.
“At its core, the new Act should provide balance between the rights and responsibilities of both owners and tenants,” says Sophie.
Significant impacts on property owners
The RTA review process has seen a number of proposed changes that every property owner should be aware of.
“These include the potential introduction of minimum standards required in every rental property, which at the moment lacks clarity,” says Sophie. “Current proposals range from safety switches in all properties, minimum numbers of power points per room to requiring air conditioners or fans.”
An area of concern is the current proposal that owners lose the right to serve a 120-day notice on a tenant to terminate a periodic tenancy for no reason, which at the moment is used when none of the other sections apply or the owner simply decides to bring the lease to an end.
“It is proposed that this right be retained by tenants and on balance, in my view it should still be available to owners,” says Sophie.
Further proposals include expanding the Act to cover leases for longer than 5 years and tenants having the option to extend the lease without the owner’s approval.
The way that property repairs are handled is also under the spotlight as part of the review.
“One proposal under current consideration is that every owner be required to lodge $1800.00 (being the current amount for urgent repairs that a tenant may spend if required) per property for the tenant to draw on in the event that an urgent repair occurs. Regardless of whether the owner has been responsible and timely with repairs in the past, all would be required to lodge this fixed amount if that proposal was approved."
Have your say
Owners have the option to contact your local member to pass on any concerns that you may have. You may also wish to sign the REIV’s petition to the Victorian government to highlight your concern about the proposed changes.
"After 20 years waiting for the current Act to be reviewed, I urge all rental property owners take this rare window of opportunity to include your perspective as a landlord during the RTA review process."
The RTA review document can be found at http://fairersaferhousing.vic.gov.au/renting/documents.