Victoria’s rental regulations

    The public consultation on the draft regulations has now closed.
    The new regulations will be released in 2020. See full details at Engage Victoria.
    For the latest on the law changes see make renting fair. You can also subscribe for email updates.


     

    Tenants Victoria has been working for 40 years to improve the safety, stability and privacy of Victorian renters. Housing is the foundation that people build their lives on and when we have homes we can rely on then the whole community benefits.

    The draft Residential Tenancies Amendment Regulations provide much of the detail of how Victoria’s new laws will operate. These draft regulations were open for public feedback and comments until 18 December 2019. 

    Some of the proposed regulations are positive and will support greater safety, stability and privacy for renters. There are also a number of important areas where they fall short or fail to include the protections our community needs.

    This guide and the accompanying report card we have released focuses on ten of the most important issues. We need to see movement from the Victorian Government in these areas for the draft regulations to deliver on the promises made to the Victorian community.

    For more details, see our comprehensive analysis of the draft regulations [pdf, 549kb].

    See our full submission on the draft regulations.

     

    Tenants Victoria report card

     

    Tenants Victoria report card on draft rental regulations

    The top ten issues

     

    1. Minimum standards
    2. Home modifications
    3. Family violence protections
    4. Healthy and affordable homes
    5. Unfair lease conditions
    6. Unfair application questions
    7. Mould and damp issues
    8. Disclosure of property issues
    9. Limits on bond amounts
    10. Sales inspections

     

    Minimum standards

    Tenants Victoria is pleased to see minimum rental standards being introduced after more than two decades of community advocacy. We are pleased that some standards will be set, but disappointed that the standards have been set so low. There are also some areas that have been left out, including a number of measures that fundamentally impact on renters’ ability to feel safe and secure in their home.

    Things we like:

    The following have been included in the draft minimum standards:

    • Deadlocks on external doors
    • Vermin-proof rubbish and recycling bins
    • Working toilets
    • Bathrooms with hot and cold water
    • Kitchens with working appliances and hot and cold water
    • Basic structural soundness of properties
    • Access to light in interior rooms
    • Weatherproof properties
    • Mould-free properties

    The following are also positives:

    • Renters can terminate a lease prior to moving in if a property does not meet the minimum standards

    Things we dislike:

    The following need to be included in the minimum standards:

    • Electrical safety (currently delayed until 2022)
    • Window coverings (currently delayed until 2021)
    • Bathroom and toilet window coverings
    • Basic cooling/air-conditioning
    • Energy efficiency inc. adequate insulation
    • Ventilation and insulation

    The following are also negatives:

    • There is no requirement for owners to tell prospective renters that a property does not meet the minimum standards
    • Minimum standards do not apply to tenancies commenced prior to 1 July 2020
    • The phase out of LPG heaters could adversely impact regional renters

    See more: minimum standards

     

    Home modifications

    Introducing a category of ‘reasonable modifications’ is welcome and will help renters to be able to feel more at home while renting. However, the implementation of this change will make it difficult for renters to access these ‘reasonable modifications’ and changes to the process are needed for the new system to work as promised.

    Things we like:

    The following things have been included as reasonable modifications:

    • Picture hooks
    • Screws for wall mounts, shelves or brackets
    • Furniture safety anchors
    • Draughtproofing
    • Low flow showerheads
    • Non-permanent window insulation
    • Replacement curtains
    • Flyscreens
    • Vegetable gardens
    • Security cameras

    Things we dislike:

    The following issues are negatives that will undermine the benefits for renters:

    • Many of these modifications still require owner consent
    • There is no timeline for owners to provide consent, which could leave renters in limbo or even at risk
    • The Act should be amended to include provision for a time frame for consent, which should be 24-72 hours from request, depending on whether it is a standard request or a safety related request, with consent being implied after this time frame.
    • The Act should also be amended to allow modifications relating to family violence to be done without the need for consent, the need for removal at the end of the lease, and the request for any additional bond.

    See more: home modifications

     

    Family violence protections

    The majority of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Family Violence have been implemented, but there is more to do to meet the Victorian Government’s promise in this area and to meet all of the relevant recommendations.

    Things we like:

    • Simplified process for terminating an agreement and creating new agreements
    • Challenging certain notices to vacate
    • Challenging inclusion in tenancy databases
    • Expanding VCAT’s ability to consider family violence in considerations
    • Supporting family violence victims to have comfortable and secure homes 
    • Provisions that will help family violence victims maintain continuity of residence in rental properties

    Things we dislike:

    The following issues need to be addressed in the final regulations:

    • Inconsistent protections throughout act and regulations that create uncertainty
    • Contradictions as to when a formal intervention order is needed or when this is not required

    We believe the Victorian Government needs to review the Royal Commission on Family Violence’s recommendations and consult further with the family violence sector prior to finalising these regulations. Amendments to the Act will also be required.

    See more: family violence protections

     

    Healthy and affordable homes

    Victoria’s new rental laws presented a rare opportunity to create a clear timetable for making rental properties healthy, affordable and energy efficient. The community benefits of this would be significant, but the minimum standards and other regulations do not take meaningful steps towards meeting this goal.

    Things we dislike:

    • The lack of minimum standards that include health and affordability relating to energy efficiency of properties
    • There has been a lack of consideration for renters who need cooling during hot weather
    • The inclusion of window coverings in the minimum standards is delayed until 2021
    • Modifications to install draught-proofing, put in heavy curtains or improve thermal comfort are at cost of renters

    See more: healthy and affordable homes

     

    Unfair lease conditions

    We welcome the prohibited lease conditions that have been included in the draft regulations, however there are some significant items that should be included.

    Things we like:

    We support banning the following lease conditions:

    • Requirement for renters to take out insurance
    • Exempting landlords and agents from liability for their own actions
    • Financial penalties for breaching lease agreements
    • Limiting the fair use of a property by renters
    • Requiring rent to be paid via methods that incur fees
    • Implying renters are liable for rental provider’s VCAT fees

    Things we dislike:

    The following unfair lease terms should also be banned:

    • Blanket terms levying extra fees for lease breaking and other things
    • Providing renter details to third parties without consent
    • Other terms that unfairly diminish or alter a renter’s rights or liabilities during a lease

    See more: unfair lease conditions

     

    Unfair rental application questions

    The questions on rental application forms can open up a wide range of issues if they are not properly regulated. Renters may disclose information that is used to discriminate against them, that diminishes their rights or that breaches their privacy.

    We welcome prohibitions on irrelevant questions in tenancy applications, however there are further items that should be included in the banned list.

    Things we like:

    We support the banning of the following kinds of questions on application forms:

    • Asking about an applicant’s previous legal disputes or actions with a rental provider
    • Asking about an applicant’s bond history or whether there has ever been a claim on their bond
    • Asking for an applicant’s passport if there are other forms of ID
    • Asking for bank statements that show sensitive information
    • Asking for nationality or residency status (unless its required for community or public housing)

    In relation to rooming houses, we support a prohibition on asking about an applicant’s income before informing them how much rent is payable.

    Things we dislike:

    Questions about personal characteristics, history and that seek consent for actions that go beyond the rental application process should be banned. This includes:

    • Asking if an applicant is using a bond loan?
    • Asking an applicant why they left their last property
    • Asking about any information that could be used to discriminate against an applicant (these are listed in the Statement on Discrimination – see Regulations 14, 40, 55, 75.)
    • Asking an applicant to pay rent or bond before getting a residency/tenancy agreement.
    • Asking questions that would allow personal information to be given to third parties
    • Asking questions that could affect an applicant’s legal rights (such as agreeing to be listed on a tenancy database)
    • Asking if an applicant smokes
    • Asking intrusive financial questions over and above what is needed to assess if you an applicant can pay the rent

    Digital applications that demand irrelevant information and prevent submission of application without these fields being filled out should also be banned.

    See more: unfair rental application questions

     

    Mould and damp issues

    We welcome the treatment of mould and damp as an urgent repair issue due to the serious health impact it can have.  However, we need to see the disclosure of previous mould, damp and flooding issues included as well as an adequate ventilation standard.

    Things we like:

    • Homes must be free of mould and damp at the time someone commences a new lease

    Things we dislike:

    • This will only apply to tenancies commenced after 1 July 2020
    • Lack of disclosure of previous mould/damp issues, which is an indicator it might reoccur
    • Lack of adequate ventilation required for rental homes

    See more: mould and damp issues

     

    Disclosure of property issues

    We support the new mandatory disclosure rules, but have identified some important omissions which need to be addressed in the final regulations.

    Things we like:

    We support mandatory disclosure of the following issues:

    • Plans to sell properties
    • Legal actions by a mortgagee
    • Rental provider has right to let property
    • Electricity provider for embedded networks
    • Knowledge of a homicide in the property during past five years
    • Use of property for trafficking, cultivation or storage of illegal drugs
    • Knowledge of presence of asbestos
    • Building or planning applications for the rental property being leased (does not include neighbouring properties)
    • Official orders or declarations on property
    • Domestic building work disputes
    • Owners corporation rules

    Things we dislike:

    The following issues need to be added to the mandatory disclosure list:

    • History of mould and damp issues
    • History of flooding or water damage
    • Non-compliance with previous VCAT repair orders
    • Active testing and disclosure of the presence of asbestos
    • Gas and electrical safety checks
    • Positive compliance with minimum standards
    • Building ocupation certification (occupancy certificate from local council)
    • Known planning permits for neighbouring properties
    • Copy of plan with owners corporation rules showing communal areas
    • Presence and type of insulation
    • Heritage rules or restrictions in place
    • Progress towards meeting energy efficiency regulations

    For rooming houses:

    • Confirmation that rooming house managers are fit and proper persons
    • Confirmation that rooming house is registered and registration information

    See more: disclosure of property issues

     

    Limits on bonds

    We are happy with the increase on bond limits, meaning fewer renters will be subject to high bond payments. This needs to be regularly reviewed in line with average rental increases over time.

    See more: limits on bond amounts 

     

    Sales inspections

    Under the new laws rental providers will be able to hold open-for-inspections in renters’ homes in way that unfairly reduces the control they have over who enters their homes and when access occurs.

    Things we like:

    • If the open-for-inspection is for a sales campaign the new laws include mandatory compensation to be paid to renters for each inspection.

    Things we dislike:

    • If rental providers follow the new laws relating to open-for-inspections, renters will no longer be able to refuse access for this reason, which will result in significant interference to renters’ use and enjoyment of their homes.
    • We think the level of compensation set in the regulations for this interference is too low, representing only around half of what VCAT typically provides

    See more: sales inspections

     


    The public consultation on the draft regulations has now closed.
    The new regulations will be released in 2020. See full details at Engage Victoria.
    For the latest on the law changes see make renting fair. You can also subscribe for email updates.


     

    Tenants Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.