Changes to the Victorian tenancy act

In March this year, a swathe of new rules and regulations for Victorian landlords came into effect and, while the Property Management team at WhiteStar are across the changes, we thought it was wise to highlight the key obligations for landlords and property management under the new laws.

First and foremost, the majority of these reforms won’t affect WhiteStar Property Management or the majority of our landlords – especially since many of the rules focus on minimum standards for amenities, utilities and fittings, which are usually already being met in the newer properties of our clients.

Covid-19 measures and terminology
Some of the changes are simply technical, or deal specifically with measures that were introduced at the height of the Covid-19 lockdowns, for example landlords may once again increase rent and issue notices to vacate. Official terminology has changed too, so a landlord is now referred to as a ‘rental provider’ and the tenant is referred to as the ‘renter’ in government regulations and documents.

Rental applications and bond
Rental applications can no longer include questions asking:

  • If any bond was withheld from a previous tenancy (though we can ask this during reference-checking)
  • To provide proof of finances or bank statements
  • Personal questions such as gender, marital status or occupation

Six-week bonds may only be requested for newly-rented properties above $900pw, up from the current $350pw threshold.

Minimum standards

Rental providers will be required to ensure their properties meet certain minimum living and safety standards, including:

  • All external doors to be fitted with a deadlock and a key provided to all adults listed on the lease, except where there is a security door or the unit is part of an apartment block with fob access.
  • Annual smoke alarm testing and maintenance servicing by a qualified tradesperson.
  • Gas and electrical safety check every 24 months by a qualified tradesperson, who will provide a certificate of compliance or recommendation for work to be done.
  • Homes must provide the basic essentials a tenant will need, such as access to hot water, heating, cooling, and window coverings, and be free of vermin.

Renters’ requests
To allow renters to feel more ‘at home’, renters may make small modifications to the property without first getting the owners’ consent. These modifications include:

  • Installing picture hooks
  • Installing screws or anchoring devices for wall-mounts, shelves or brackets on walls that are not made of brick
  • Using LED light bulbs as long as they do not need new light fittings
  • Connecting low-flow showerheads
  • Affixing blind or cord anchors, hardware-mounted child safety gates, security lights or cameras.

More substantial modifications will still need the rental provider’s consent, and renters are still obliged to return the property to the original condition before they leave, or pay for the costs to fix any damage caused.

Property management

Routine / General Inspections: Property managers and rental providers are able to conduct a routine / general inspection at 3mths from the commencement of a lease and then every 6 months thereafter. If a notice to vacate to end the first fixed term of the tenancy is to be issued, it is required to be provided a minimum of 90 days before the expiry of the fixed term (plus the required time for postage).

Also, the previous ability to serve a tenant with 120-days’ notice to vacate with no reason given has been abolished. A valid cause as set out in the Act must now be provided, but this can still include continued breaches of the lease agreement, a desire to sell the property, substantially renovate it, or move a family member in. In each case, proof of the reason for the notice needs to be included with the notice to vacate. After any notice is served, the renter can then serve a 14 day “return notice” to vacate earlier as the Act now considers that any remaining fixed term is cancelled.

While the huge amount of reforms does sound like a lot, the team Whitestar Property Management is across all of them, and we’re confident that very few of the new measures will have a significant impact on the majority of our clients. If we do think that something may need to be addressed – regardless of the age of your property – we’ll be in touch promptly, and with all the information you need.