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Summary of Changes to Victorian Rental Laws in 2021

10 January 2022 | Investment, Leasing, Property Management

beautiful living room area with "rental law changes 2021" text over the top

The Victorian rental market is constantly changing, and both renters and property owners need to be informed about legislation updates that affect them. You may remember that back in 2018, the Victorian Parliament passed the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act. Though this was over three years ago, many provisions didn’t come into full effect until March 29, 2021.

2021 Rental Law Changes

The changes in legislation cover a wide range of aspects, including rental agreements, safety and rental property condition, changes to rules on rent, and clarification on rules regarding discrimination and misleading conduct. Though your property manager or rental provider will have notified you about any changes that affect you, it can be helpful to have this vital information in one place. So let’s take a look at some of the significant changes to Victorian rental laws that came into effect this year.

Rental Agreements

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 introduced a new updated standardised form for rental agreements. There are two forms, depending on whether the duration of the agreement is greater or less than five years.

These are Residential Rental Agreement of more than five years and Residential Rental Agreement of not more than five years, respectively.

Fixed-term rental agreements of less than five years can include additional terms not outlined in the standard rental agreement form, so long as the Act doesn’t prohibit them.

The amendment also outlines several new prohibited terms. These include outlawing a requirement for renters to take out insurance and excluding terms that exempt the landlord/agent of liability for their actions.

Safety Regulations for Rental Properties

New terms for safety responsibilities will be included in rental agreements, setting out obligations for both renter and rental provider. For example, all rental properties must have both electrical and gas safety checks. They also need to be fitted with smoke alarms. In addition, properties with a swimming pool will need to have installed a safety barrier in accordance with the Victorian standard.

New Provisions on Rent

Under the previous laws, rental providers were only allowed to ask renters to pay up to one month in advance, unless the weekly cost of rent was over a certain amount. Under the new laws in the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018, they can request rent be paid more than one month in advance if weekly rent exceeds $900.

According to the amendment, rent must be offered at a fixed amount. This prohibits advertising properties within a price range. However, signs on the property don’t need to state the amount, and providers may accept higher-than-advertised offers if the renter is unprompted.

Further on the topic of rent, providers cannot require rent to be paid by cheque or any other particular method. However, they may request that rent be paid in their preferred method, so long as the renter consents. Before gaining consent from the renter, the provider must inform them of any costs they may be subject to by using this preferred method.

Clarified Rules on Discrimination

The amendment has seen a new focus on discrimination. Under the conditions brought into effect in 2021, rental application forms must have a statement to inform potential renters about discrimination. Providers cannot request certain information from applicants, including if they have ever had a dispute with a rental provider, their bond history or bank statements that show transactions.

Rental providers must disclose if there is intention to sell a property.

Misleading and Deceptive Conduct

Before the amendment, there was no legislation in the Residential Tenancies Act prohibiting private rental providers from misleading or deceptive conduct to urge a person into a rental agreement.

Though commercial rental providers and real estate agents were already subject to this under Australian Consumer Law, this amendment ensures tenants are covered in private agreements.

Rental Property Condition

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 saw changes to the procedures regarding condition reports. Rental providers and renters have 30 days from the commencement of a rental agreement to amend inaccurate or incomplete condition reports. They will need to apply to the VCAT, which will decide whether or not an amendment is necessary.

What about in 2022?

Here are a few things to keep your eye out for from the start of 2022 onwards:

From December 31, 2021, rental providers must disclose any repair notices dated within three years regarding mould or dampness in the premises if it was caused by or relating to the building structure.

From March 29, 2022, all windows and bedrooms in living areas must have coverings that block light and provide privacy.

From March 29 2023, electrical safety switches must be installed in rented premises, and an energy-efficient fixed heater is required in the main living area.

If you have more questions about property management, get in touch with our helpful team at Meadows Property Group.

For more detailed information about changes to Victorian rental laws, visit https://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/housing/renting/changes-to-renting-laws/transition-to-new-renting-laws.