Residential Tenancies Act Changes: What Landlords Need To Know

At Phillips and Wilkins, we provide advice on commercial leases but generally do not on residential tenancies. However, we acknowledge that many of our clients are residential landlords.

It is important that all residential landlords familiarise themselves with recent changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

The changes came into effect in March of this year. The general commentary regarding these changes has been that the changes provide for greater protections for tenants. In many respects, this is true however in many situations, the obligations required of landlords would have already been in practice.

We encourage all landlords to review the changes. We would suggest that you contact your managing agent after reading our advice if you have any queries. Landlords without an agent should seek out specialist advice. We have detailed key amendments that we believe are significant. This article does not cover all amendments that have been introduced and should not be relied upon as an exhaustive summary.

rent & security deposit

Changes To The Residential Tenancy Act 1997

1. Change in terminology (self-managing landlords). The Act has outlined that landlords are now to be referred to as rental providers and tenants are now to be referred to as renters. Please familiarise yourself with this terminology to avoid confusion.

2. Leases entered into after 29 March 2021: rental providers must only refuse a renter to have a pet at the property if it is reasonable for them to do so. If the rental provider wants to refuse a pet, they will need to obtain an order from VCAT within 14 days of receiving the pet request form from the renter.

3. Before entering a new lease, the rental provider must not ask potential renters certain questions which may be regarded as an invasion of their privacy. For example, rental providers are not permitted to ask for information pertaining to:
(a) whether the renter has been involved in a dispute with a rental provider in the past;
(b) The renter’s bond history; and
(c) Any information which may be used to discriminate against them, such as sexuality, nationality or religion.

4. Rental providers must ensure that leases entered into after 29 March 2021 meet minimum standards. This includes matters such as sufficient door locks, ventilation standards, lighting standards, vermin-proof bins, functioning toilet, reasonable hot and cold water supply, shower/bath, a dedicated food preparation area, sink and functioning stovetop. The premises must also be structurally sound and weatherproof and the premises must be free from mould and dampness.

5. In the instance where renters have overdue rent: if within 14 days of a landowner serving a notice to vacate the renter has paid back the overdue rent, the notice will subsequently be invalidated. This can occur four times in a twelve-month period. On the fifth time in the same 12-month period, the rent provider may serve a notice to vacate on the renter and apply for a possession order through VCAT and the notice not be invalidated if the overdue rent is paid.

6. When terminating a lease agreement, rental providers are no longer permitted to issue a 120 day ‘no specified reason’ notice to vacate. For a lease agreement to be terminated the rental provider must provide a valid reason. Valid reasons include the sale of the property, change of use or demolition of the property or the rental provider moving into the property.

We hope this article has given some general insight into the recent changes to Residential Tenancies Act to residential tenancies. Please contact your managing agent if you have any further inquiries or questions arising from this article.

Will Elder

Will Elder

Will has developed a broad commercial practice in which he advises clients on business acquisition and sale, commercial agreements, commercial and retail leasing, and commercial litigation. Learn more about Will’s legal experience.