Consumer Affairs Taskforce Now Auditing Rental Agencies for Compliance – ‘Crack Down On Dodgy Rentals’

Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) is doubling down on rental providers and real estate agents who try to skirt the rules with dodgy rental practices. 

Despite extensive reforms introduced by the Allan Labor Government in 2021 to bolster renter protections and streamline property management for owners, some in the industry continue to flout regulations. 

To combat this, Minister for Consumer Affairs Gabrielle Williams has unveiled a proactive solution: a dedicated taskforce aimed squarely at rooting out illicit behaviors in the rental market. 

What is the new rental task force?

Led by Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV), the taskforce comprises analysts, inspectors, investigators, and lawyers who work together to monitor rental campaigns, conduct targeted inspections, and take action against identified breaches of rental regulations. 

The taskforce is backed by a $4 million investment and operates similarly to previous enforcement initiatives, using intelligence and market analysis to enhance monitoring and enforcement activities. 

Its primary goal is to send a clear message that rental offences, such as false advertising, renting out substandard properties, and failing to lodge bonds, will not be tolerated, with significant penalties for offenders.

The further implication is on agencies not conducting rental safety inspections as now required by legislation for all areas of smoke alarm, electrical and gas safety – and following compliance requirements.

This specialised unit will deploy additional resources, including intelligence analysts, inspectors, investigators, and legal experts, to ensure comprehensive enforcement.

Additionally, CAV will streamline reporting avenues for the public, facilitating the submission of evidence to aid in investigations. This robust approach underscores the government’s unwavering stance against rental misconduct and its dedication to fostering a fair and equitable rental landscape for all stakeholders.

What brought on the formation of this task force?

The taskforce’s formation is part of a broader strategy by the Labor Government to address ongoing issues in the rental market. While there’s no direct evidence linking its establishment to the increase in challenges against rent rises, it aligns with the government’s proactive approach to improve rental conditions. 

The renting taskforce builds upon initiatives outlined in the Labor Government’s Housing Statement, such as banning all types of rental bidding, imposing restrictions on rent increases between successive fixed-term rental agreements, and extending notice periods for rent increases and vacating to 90 days. 

These measures collectively aim to create a fairer and more transparent rental environment for both tenants and landlords.

This also comes as no surprise as there has been a record number of 5,400 challenges lodged by tenants from November 2022 to 2023, representing a 120% increase from the previous year’s figures. 

This surge in challenges reflects the growing concerns among renters about rising rental costs and limited rental supply, as highlighted by Melbourne’s median weekly rent reaching historic highs.

Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) has been inundated with requests for rent assessments, prompting the redirection of extra staff to manage these additional claims. The redirection of staff indicates the need for a more comprehensive approach to handle the rise in rental disputes and ensure fairness in rental agreements. 

This context underscores the necessity of establishing a dedicated taskforce to address rental offences and strengthen enforcement measures within the rental market.

What are the common rental offences the task force will cover?

The offences targeted by the renting taskforce and Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) include a range of illegal or unprofessional behaviors by rental providers and agents. 

These offences are outlined under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 and can lead to penalties, fines, or legal actions. Here are some of the key offences related to rental providers and agents:

Advertising Offences: This includes actions such as advertising a property without a fixed rent price, engaging in rental bidding, making false or misleading statements about the rent, and charging fees for property inspections.

Breaches of Duty: Rental providers are required to fulfill certain duties under Victoria’s rental laws. Failure to do so can result in breaches of duty, for which tenants can issue a ‘notice for breach of duty’ demanding corrective action or compensation for any losses suffered.

Offences in Rental Agreements: This category covers actions such as being deceptive or misleading to enter a rental agreement, creating agreements that are not in standard form, including prohibited terms in agreements, and not providing a copy of the agreement to tenants before and after signing.

Inappropriate Use of Personal Information: Rental providers or agents are prohibited from inappropriately using tenants’ personal information. This includes actions such as selling contact details without consent or using personal details for promotional purposes without authorization. Such practices violate tenants’ privacy rights and are considered unlawful under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

Refusing to Refund Holding Deposits: When a tenant pays a holding deposit to secure a rental property, the rental provider or agent is obligated to refund the deposit if the tenant decides not to proceed with the tenancy. Refusing to refund the holding deposit without valid reasons constitutes an offence and can lead to penalties.

Discriminatory Practices: It is illegal for rental providers or agents to discriminate against tenants based on protected characteristics such as race, gender, religion, disability, family status, or age. Refusing to rent to someone because they have children, for instance, is a violation of anti-discrimination laws and is strictly prohibited.

Failure to Disclose Information: Rental providers must disclose relevant information about the property and rental process to prospective tenants. This includes informing tenants if the property is intended to be sold during the tenancy, providing details about any ongoing disputes or issues related to the property, and disclosing the results of renter database searches conducted as part of the application process.

Unfair Rental Terms: Including prohibited terms in rental agreements, such as requiring tenants to compensate the rental provider for damages beyond normal wear and tear, is considered an offence. Rental agreements must adhere to standard forms and cannot contain terms that unfairly disadvantage tenants or contravene rental laws.

These offences reflect various aspects of unethical or illegal conduct within the rental market and are targeted by the taskforce to ensure compliance with rental laws and protect the rights of tenants. 

Reporting such offences to Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) can lead to investigations, fines, or legal actions against offenders, ultimately promoting fairness and transparency in the rental sector.

What rental standards must you go over to avoid getting fined by CAV?

To avoid fines and ensure compliance with rental standards, it’s crucial to engage with professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and rental safety check specialists. These experts play a vital role in maintaining a safe and legally compliant rental property. 

rental safety inspection

By proactively addressing electrical, plumbing, and safety concerns, landlords and property managers can avoid penalties from regulatory bodies like the rental task force and provide a secure environment for tenants.

Electrical Standards with Electricians:

  • Ensure that electrical installations and appliances in the rental property meet safety standards and are in good working condition.
  • Discuss the importance of regular electrical inspections to identify and address any potential hazards, such as faulty wiring, overloaded circuits, or outdated electrical systems.
  • Emphasize the need for proper grounding and insulation to prevent electrical shocks and fire hazards.
  • Verify that smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and other safety devices are installed as per legal requirements and are functioning correctly.
  • Address any concerns related to electrical safety in common areas or shared facilities within rental properties.

Plumbing Standards with Plumbers:

  • Check plumbing fixtures, pipes, and water supply systems to ensure they are free from leaks, blockages, or water damage.
  • Discuss the importance of maintaining adequate water pressure and temperature for tenants’ comfort and safety.
  • Ensure that plumbing installations comply with building codes and standards, including proper drainage, sewage disposal, and backflow prevention measures.
  • Address any issues related to water quality, such as ensuring potable water supply and addressing concerns about water contaminants.
  • Discuss the importance of timely repairs and maintenance to prevent water-related damages and health hazards.

Rental Safety Inspections:

  • Conduct comprehensive safety inspections of the rental property, focusing on areas such as structural integrity, fire safety, and general habitability.
  • Verify that the property meets minimum standards outlined in rental regulations, including functional kitchen facilities, lockable external doors, and structural soundness.
  • Check for potential hazards such as mold, asbestos, pest infestations, or unsafe building materials that could pose health risks to tenants.
  • Discuss emergency procedures and evacuation plans with regard to fire safety, including the location and condition of fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, and emergency exits.
  • Address any specific safety concerns related to the property’s layout, amenities, or environmental factors that could affect tenants’ well-being.

By engaging with electricians, plumbers, and conducting thorough rental safety inspections based on these rental standards, landlords and property managers can ensure that their properties are compliant with regulations, safe for occupancy, and conducive to a healthy living environment for tenants.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the establishment of the Renting Taskforce marks a pivotal step in the ongoing efforts by the Allan Labor Government to enhance accountability and fairness within the rental market in Victoria. By targeting a range of offences such as false advertising, substandard properties, and breaches of rental agreements, this taskforce sends a clear message that rental misconduct will not be tolerated. 

Collaborating with professionals like electricians, plumbers, and rental safety specialists becomes paramount in avoiding fines and ensuring compliance with the standards set forth by the taskforce. Ultimately, this collective effort not only safeguards the rights of tenants but also fosters a more transparent and responsible rental landscape for all stakeholders involved.

Tell us how we can help

Contact Us for immediate scheduling

If you have any questions, we are happy to answer them via phone or email. You may also contact us via our social channels.

Fill out the form and we'll get back to you immediately