Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act Owners Need to Know

residential tenancies act 2021

In 2021, Victoria introduced significant updates to its Residential Tenancies Act (RTA). This is reshaping the rental landscape to provide more fairness to tenants.

This introduces further pressure on owners and considerable rent roll reductions in agencies. The purpose of this article is to outline those key changes.

Let’s delve into the key changes that every renter and landlord should be aware of:

Ban on Rental Bidding:

A landlord/rental provider and real estate agent can only offer a rental property at a fixed price. This also bans further bidding or solicitation of offers of renter higher than the advertised price.

No Eviction Without a Reason:

Landlords can no longer evict tenants without a valid reason. The updated RTA provides stronger protections for renters by requiring landlords to provide a legitimate ground for eviction, preventing arbitrary terminations of tenancies.

Allowable Modifications by Renters:

residential tenancies act 2021

Renters now have greater flexibility to make modifications to their rental properties without seeking landlord permission. Thus, it lessens the rental providers’ power to refuse requests for changes.

Changers that renters can now make without permission include:

  • non-permanent window film for insulation, reduced heat transfer or privacy
  • a wireless doorbell
  • curtains (but the renter must not throw out the original curtains)
  • adhesive child safety locks on drawers and doors
  • pressure-mounted child safety gates
  • a lock on a letterbox

And the below also presuming the property is not Victorian Heritage listed:

  • picture hooks or screws for wall mounts, shelves or brackets on all surfaces except exposed brick or concrete walls. Be aware of asbestos-containing materials. Do not screw, hammer or drill into these – for more information, visit Asbestos Victoria
  • wall anchors to secure items of furniture on all surfaces except exposed brick or concrete walls
  • LED light bulbs which don’t need new light fittings
  • low flow shower heads (the renter must not throw out the original showerhead)
  • blind or cord anchors
  • removable safety devices such as alarm systems or security cameras, as long as they:
    • do not impact the privacy of neighbours
    • can easily remove them from the property
    • are not hardwired to the property.
  • hardware mounted child safety gates on walls other than exposed brick or concrete walls.

Additionally, the rental providers cannot cannot unreasonably refuse the following changes:

  • picture hooks or screws for wall mounts, shelves or brackets on exposed brick or concrete walls
  • hardware mounted child safety gates on exposed brick or concrete walls
  • wall anchors to secure items of furniture on exposed brick or concrete walls
  • draughtproofing in a property without open-flued gas heating. This includes installing:
    • weather seals
    • caulking or gap filling around windows, doors, skirting and floorboards
  • a security system if an invoice with the installer’s name is provided to the rental provider when consent is requested. A suitably qualified person must install the system and must not impact the privacy of neighbours
  • flyscreens on doors and windows
  • a vegetable or herb garden
  • a secure letterbox
  • painting of the premises
  • modifications to secure external gates
  • any modification which contributes to the conservation of a registered place and is proposed in accordance with Part 5 of the Heritage Act 2017.

Or any further changes as long as they:

  • don’t penetrate or permanently change surfaces, fixtures or the structure of the property
  • are necessary for health and safety
  • are reasonable under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and where an occupational therapist or other prescribed practitioner has said they are required – these are disability-related modifications
  • give the renter access to phone, internet or television services
  • are reasonable security measures
  • are necessary to ensure the safety of a renter who has been or is being subjected to family violence by another party to the rental agreement. Read more about renting and family violence
  • are necessary to ensure the safety of a renter who is a protected person under a personal safety intervention order made against another party to the rental agreement
  • are necessary to make sure the renter is not too hot or cold inside the property
  • are necessary to reduce energy and water bills.

You can find a list of reasons why a rental provider can reasonably refuse the above works. These are listed on the consumer affairs website.

The rental provider can also request additional bond funds to cover the undoing cost at the end of the rental agreement.

New Rental Minimum Standards in the Residential Tenancies Act:

residential tenancies act 2021

Under the revamped RTA, rental properties must meet minimum standards to ensure the safety and habitability of tenants.

These new rental standards include:

  1. Bathroom Amenities: Every rental property must have a bathroom equipped with a
    washbasin, shower or bath, and a reliable supply of hot and cold water. Showers must have
    a water-efficient shower head.
  2. Electrical Safety: Rental properties must have modern switchboards with circuit breakers
    and electrical safety switches installed, ensuring the safety of occupants.
  3. Heating: All rental properties must have a fixed heater in the main living area, with a focus
    on energy-efficient options for new agreements.
  4. Kitchen Facilities: Properties must include a dedicated cooking and food preparation area
    with a sink, stovetop, and functioning oven.
  5. Laundry Facilities: If present, the laundry must connect to hot and cold water supplies.
  6. Lighting and Locks: There must be adequate lighting in all rooms, corridors, and hallways,
    while external entry doors must have functioning locks.
  7. Mould and Damp: Rental properties must be free from mould and damp caused by structural issues.
  8. Structural Soundness: The property must be structurally sound and weatherproof.
  9. Toilets and Ventilation: Toilets must be in good working order and properly connected, and adequate ventilation must be provided in all habitable rooms.
  10. Vermin-Proof Bins and Window Coverings: Rental providers must supply vermin-proof rubbish bins

Furthermore, gas, electrical and smoke alarm safety checks are now a
mandate for all rental properties live from the 29 th of March, 2021 and due by the 29 th of March,

At the time of this writing, all Safety Checks must have been completed by now or new rental properties must be completed before renting the property.

residential tenancies act 2021

Urgent Repairs:

residential tenancies act 2021

Urgent repairs are now prioritized under the revised RTA, ensuring that renters have timely access to essential maintenance services.

Landlords are obligated to promptly address urgent repair requests to maintain the safety and well-being of tenants.

Urgent repairs are not as equally as urgent. These are considered on a sliding scale as per the below screenshot from Consumer Affairs.

A close-up of a websiteDescription automatically generated

Urgent repairs like a gas leak should be completed within 24 hours of the renter reporting the fault. However, thia may not be immediately possible due to the nature of the work. Examples of this include:

  • A blocked toilet is the result of tree roots growing in the pipes.
  • Mould remediation.
  • Investigation of a roof leak.
  • A fence which is about to fall down
  • Ect.

These updates to Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act mark a significant step forward in enhancing the rights and protections of renters across the state. Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, it’s crucial to familiarise yourself with these changes to ensure compliance and promote a fair and harmonious rental environment.

Stay informed and empowered as you navigate the rental market in Victoria, knowing that these reforms are designed to promote stability, security, and respect for both tenants and landlords alike.

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