What you need to know about Victorian rental reforms: Part I

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 was originally scheduled for July 1 2020, however, the implementation was delayed due to COVID-19. The changes are now scheduled to come into effect March 29 2021, the day after the year-long rental moratorium ceases.

There are 132 legislative changes that will come into effect, many within the areas of compliance and safety. Industry experts state the reforms will solidify how VCAT and consumers have typically been working for many years.

There are a range of factors landlords need to be aware of including the introduction of a set of minimum standards and the language changes.

Introduction of new minimum standards

Victorian landlords will be prevented from listing inferior properties under a series of minimum rental standards. Properties that are already compliant with the new minimum standards need do nothing; however, others may need a small investment to bring them into line with requirements.

All minimum standards must be met before the commencement of a new tenancy agreement after March 29 2021. Noel Jones agents will work with their clients now to ensure each property is compliant when the existing tenancy ends; thus properties will not remain vacant between tenants as they are brought up to standard.

The minimum standards include, but are not limited to:

Taps

All taps inside the property must have access to both hot and cold running water – this includes those in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry.

Windows

All windows which are capable of being opened must be able to be set in an open or closed position and have functional latches to secure against external entry.

Curtains and Blinds

When a new agreement commences, or from March 29 2022, windows in rooms likely to be used as bedrooms or living areas must be fitted with a curtain or blind that can be easily opened and closed. The curtains/blinds must be capable of providing privacy as well as blocking out light.

Kitchen

There must be a dedicated area within the home for cooking and food preparation. This includes an oven, a stovetop with two or more burners and a sink and all must be in good working order.

Lighting

Interior rooms and hallways must have either natural or artificial light (some exclusions may apply). Habitable rooms must have access to adequate natural light – this may include borrowed light from an adjoining room – during daylight hours and artificial light during non-daylight hours.

Electrical & Gas Safety

Electrical safety checks are required to be carried out every two years by a licensed/registered electrician. The same applies to gas checks in premises containing appliances, fixtures or fittings connected to gas. The landlord is required to provide the date of the most recent safety check in writing to the renter on request. If a safety check has not been completed within the last two years on the day the renter occupies the property, the landlord must arrange for the check as soon as it is practical to do so.

Smoke alarms

It’s the landlord’s duty to ensure smoke alarms are correctly installed and in working condition. Alarms must be tested at least once every 12 months and if they aren’t working must be considered an urgent repair. Hardwired smoke alarms should also be checked as part of the two-year electrical check.

Heating

All tenancies require a heater. If a tenancy is started prior to March 29 2021 and a heater is already installed no further action is required. If a new tenancy is started prior to March 29 2021 and the heater is not energy efficient must be replaced with one that meets the specified rating prior to March 29 2023. If a tenancy starts after March 29 2021 and there is no heating, an energy efficient heater must be installed immediately. As of March 29 2023, all tenancies must contain an energy efficient heater unless it’s the same tenancy and it started prior to March 29 2021 on a 5-year lease. Some exclusions may apply based on property class.

Swimming pools

Landlords must ensure that appropriate barriers are in place and that all barriers are maintained in good repair. Tenants must give notice in writing if they become aware that a barrier is not in good working order so that it can be rectified as an urgent repair. Tenants must not erect a relocatable pool without written notice to the landlord; they would then need to obtain any and all approvals necessary under the Building Act 1993 regulations.

Structure

A rental property must be structurally sound and weatherproofed, free from mould and damp caused by, or related to, the building structure and it must have adequate ventilation.

All minimum standards are applicable to new rental agreements that begin from March 29 2021, unless otherwise stipulated; landlords do not need to make any amendments for existing tenancies. It is important to note, however, that tenants who have agreements that started before this date can seek urgent repairs for a certain issues.

Language

There has been a change in some key terminology as set out below.

OWNERS/LANDLORDS will now be known as RESIDENTIAL RENTAL PROVIDERS/RENTAL PROVIDERS.

TENANTS will now be known as RENTERS.

TENANCY AGREEMENTS will now be known as RESIDENTIAL RENTAL AGREEMENTS.

ROOMING HOUSE OWNERS will now be known as ROOMING HOUSE OPERATORS.

These tenancy agreement changes may be challenging for some landlords, however, Noel Jones Property Management staff are fully across all the modifications and requirements and are here to guide you seamlessly through this period of change.

What you need to know about Victorian rental reforms Part II Coming Soon