News Articles and analysis

Stopping ‘lemon’ rentals

Affording a home doesn’t have to mean buying property; for many it means being able to pay rent. More Victorians are now renting and most of them are renting for longer. More families and older people are renting and many people will become life-long renters.

You wouldn’t rent a car if the air-conditioning was broken, it had a flat tyre and guzzled petrol like a thirsty camel. But some tenants in Victoria have put up with the equivalent of this for decades: substandard dwellings, often without proper heating or cooling, and miserable responses to repair requests.

Last September, the Victorian Parliament passed legislation to change the rental laws. Legal changes won’t all occur at once – some will happen soon, others may take longer – but the last possible date is 1 July 2020.

Thankfully, these new laws begin to level the playing field between renters and property owners. Renters will have more rights and clearer expectations when they rent a home.

Changes to the law mean that:

  • Landlords and real estate agents can’t provide false or misleading information to tempt prospective tenants to sign a lease
  • Landlords and real estate agents can’t ask for higher bids for rental properties
  • A condition report can be provided by the tenant if it is not completed by the landlord, and is taken as notice of defects or outstanding repairs
  • Tenants must be provided with at least one fee-free method to pay rent
  • Rent increases can only occur once every 12 months
  • All rental properties must meet certain health, safety and energy efficiency standards before being leased
  • The landlord must reimburse the tenant within seven days for any urgent repairs that the tenant had to pay for
  • Tenants can make certain minor modifications to their home without written consent
  • Landlords will not be able to unreasonably refuse consent to own a pet
  • More reasonable entry conditions will be put in place for notices to vacate, including limitations on times of day and frequency of inspections
  • Notices to vacate for ‘no specified reason’ will be abolished
  • The rights of tenants who are victims of family violence will be strengthened
  • The landlord must not remove, destroy or dispose of certain goods left behind by the tenant, and must store them for up to 14 days
  • A landlord ‘blacklist’ will be created.

The Victorian Government must still decide on many new regulations setting out the exact details. For example, regulations will decide which modifications can be made without permission, and the information to be disclosed to prospective tenants before signing a lease. But the bottom line is that fewer Victorian tenants will have to put up with the housing equivalent of a lemon rental car.

Detailed information on changes to the Residential Tenancies Act can be found at the Make Renting Fair website.