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New Changes To The Residential Tenancies Act

Cat peeking its head from underneath rug
Pets are family members too, now in the new Residential Tenancies Act

In 2018, more Victorians are renting than ever before. Renting for some is a decision - enjoying the flexibility it offers or saving money for that elusive first home, eventually… but in most cases, renting is the only choice for a roof over your head.

Entering into any lease agreement, particularly less than 12 months, reduces security of that roof over your head, however, new changes to the Residential Tenancies Act address the needs of tenants, balancing it with the needs and rights of landlords.

Until now, it’s been difficult for renters in Victoria to declare ‘it’s not just a house, it’s a home’. The Castle is an iconic Australian film with a focus on the common British saying, ‘a man’s home is his castle’ with reference to the national self-image, most notably the concept of the working-class Australian and his or her place in modern Australia.

It’s this notion of ‘home’ that sticks in the craw of renters Australia-wide, with students and millennials making up the majority of the renting population. Whether you are planning on enrolling into our Advanced Diploma of Conveyancing, or are a current student out in the rental market trying to build yourself a stable home base, the new legislation will affect you mostly in the positive.

Review of the Residential Tenancies Act

‘On 8 October 2017, the Victorian Government announced a range of agreed reforms focused particularly on advancing the rights of tenants. Key reforms included annualised rent increase, clearer rights about keeping pets, restrictions on rental bidding, a landlord and agent blacklist, and the removal of landlords’ ability to terminate a tenancy for no specified reason.’

What to expect? 

Basically, if you are a renter you should be able to:

  • put your favourite pictures and photographs on the wall (yes, hammer in a nail – provided you do not cause damage)
  • keep a pet, which let’s face it is a family member and also helps make your house a home
  • put in a rental application form and have a fair and reasonable chance of securing a home without fear of a bidding war
  • not worry about a rent increase until at least 12 months has ticked over
  • have access to a landlord blacklist, for rent without worry
  • pay a bond - which will be capped at 4 weeks rent
  • enjoy a functioning oven/stove and fully operational heating
  • feel safe with deadlocks on front and back doors
  • terminate an agreement for family violence reasons (without recrimination or loss of bond)

The bill was passed on 22 August 2018 and received royal assent on 28 August 2018 - there are 130 proposed changes and updates to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 so we won’t list them all. Essentially your renting situation will be a little less intense.

The Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) thinks there may be an overall landlord protest and possible exodus from the market. However, popular opinion states that there are still generous tax concessions available to investors and overall, the law will keep the landlord property safe.

The Chief Executive of Tenants Victoria, Mark O’Brien has said of property owner uncertainty, that ‘any moves to dilute these reforms would be very unpopular in the community. It would be a huge loss for tenants who have already waited far too long for a fair go’.