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Victorian renters will enjoy the strongest protections in the country from July 2020, after the Andrews government’s highly-anticipated rental reforms passed Parliament late on Thursday night.

The rest of the country will be watching Victoria to see how implementing the laws over teh next two years will play out, says Wendy Stones, associate professor at Swinburne University’s Centre for Urban Transitions.

“Victoria is at the forefront of private rental tenancy reforms in all of Australia,” she said.  “For tenants there’s an urgent need for reform.”

The next two years were shaping up to be a messy implementation period, because investors were already less than thrilled with the news.

“Property Investment Professionals of Australia are surprised by the urgency of the Andrews government to rush through this legislation,” chairman Ben Kingsley said. “We can’t help but feel it’s more political than suitable for the rental market.

“These changes will only make the tenancy selection process more rigorous because all of hte power lies with the renter. The net result is it’s going to be more expensive for renters to rent in Victoria.”

The changes to the laws were first promised during the Northcote by-election and the  bill’s passing has paved way for a suite of new tenants’ rights, including controversial rules allowing pets by default and allowing for modifications that do not require a landlord’s consent.

“We said we’d make renting fair, and that’s what we’re delivering,” Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz said yesterday.

It comes as the head of Australia’s peak property body rubbished claims of a rental affordability crisis on the ABC’s 7.30 program on Thursday night.

“I don’t accept there’s a rental affordability crisis,” Malcolm Gunning, head of the Real Estate Institute of Australia said. “If you want to live on the fringe of the city, it’s affordable.  If you want to live closer to the city, it is expensive.

“Maybe even, God forbid, get two jobs. OK?”

It is understood the coalition is still considering whether to repeal the bill if it wins in November’s state election.

Other reforms include removing the no-grounds eviction notice, enabling domestic violence victims to break leases, introducing minimum standards and limiting rent increases. 

Victorian Council of Social Services chief executive Emma King said the changes flipped the tenant-landlord relationship for the better.

“No longer will people have to beg their landlord to make minor adjustments or live in fear of being kicked out for no good reason,” she said.

Tenants Victoria chief executive Mark O’Brien said it was a huge win for renters and the government.

RENT REFORMS

  • Pets automatically accepted; landlords must show why they are not appropriate
  • Rental bidding banned
  • Tenants can be paid for sales inspections
  • Renters suffering “hardship” can apply to have the tenancy terminated
  • Deceased estates are no longer liable for unpaid rent
  • A yet-to-be-determined list of modifications renters do not need approval for
  • Universal minimum standards, including deadlocks and locks on windows
  • Rent increases limited to once a year, tenants must be informed of their right to dispute and increases must be baked into the tenancy agreement
  • A raft of new fines, the majority of which are aimed at controlling landlord and agent behaviour

  

The Saturday Age, Page 13, 8 September 2018