More rights for tenants

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 12-Oct-2017

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The state government says a new package of tenancy reforms will make renting fairer for the one in four Victorians who rent their home.

The government claims its rental fairness package released earlier this week gives tenants more rights, helps them stay on longer leases, makes bonds smaller and fairer, and cracks down on dodgy landlords.

The reforms have been criticised by the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, who described the state’s new rental laws as lacking balance and having the potential to devastate the private rental market.

REIV chief executive officer Gil King said the changes involve the loss of a number of valuable rights and will reduce a landlord’s security over what is a significant financial investment. 

“The Andrews government has been short-sighted in introducing these reforms which have the ability to decimate the private rental market, ultimately driving up rents and reducing supply of rental properties at a time of unprecedented population growth,” Mr King said.

The government says it will crack down on rental bidding – a scourge that forces would-be tenants to out-bid each other on rent – and will limit rent increases to once a year to give renters more financial stability.

Renters will get better long-term security by abolishing no specified reason notices to vacate, and new restrictions will be placed on ending leases without a reason at the end of a lease when that lease has lasted more than one fixed term.

To end discrimination against renters with pets, the government will give every tenant the right to own a pet, and while landlords will still need to provide consent, they will only be able refuse in certain circumstances.

It will also be easier for tenants to make minor modifications to the rental property, such as installing hooks for picture frames – and there will be faster reimbursements for tenants who pay for urgent repairs.

In a significant cost of living reform, bonds will be capped at one month’s rent where the rent is twice the current median weekly rent – currently equivalent to $760 per week or less, covering the vast majority of Victorian rental households. This reform will also apply to rent that is paid in advance.

The government says it will also ensure faster release of bonds at the end of a tenancy. Under the reform, tenants will be able to apply for the release of bond without written consent from their landlord, who will have 14 days to raise a dispute before the bond is repaid automatically.

There will also be a crackdown on dodgy landlords with the introduction of a landlord and estate agent blacklist available to renters. False, misleading, and deceptive claims by landlords will also be outlawed.

A new commissioner for residential tenancies will be set up to help champion the rights of Victorian renters and give them a voice in future reform of renting laws over the years to come.

Premier Daniel Andrews said everyone deserves the chance to have a safe, secure and affordable home – whether they own their home or not.

Visit www.rentfair.vic.gov.au  for more information.

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