Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced a suite of reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (RTA), which according to the Government will “make renting fair” to the ever-increasing number of Victorians who are renting.
The annual growth in median rents across Metropolitan Melbourne increased 4.2% in the year to June, due predominantly to a spike in population growth (an approximate 150,000 increase in the year to March). The 2016 Census showed that because of these and other economic influences 37% of Melbourne renters are considered in ‘stress’, where more than 30% of their income goes to rent.
The government reforms include: capping bonds to four weeks of rent (for those who pay less than $760/week); abolishing the ‘no specified reason’ notices to vacate for landlords; placing landlords and real estate agents found to be guilty of misconduct on a blacklist; improving rights for renters to own pets and to make minor modifications to their homes; limiting rent increases to once a year; a faster release of bonds; banning the practice of rent bidding; and the appointment of a new Commissioner for Residential Tenancies.
“The reforms of the RTA address some of the imbalance which currently exists between the rights of tenants and landlords,” says Mr Enzo Raimondo, CEO of view.com.au. “With one in four Victorian households renting, these reforms are required.”
The major reforms intended to improve affordability are those that fight the practice of bidding (wherein applicants for a property are encouraged to bid against each other to secure a tenancy), as well as the capping of bond payments and rental increases.
“Capping bonds to four weeks also assists tenants to settle into a property without the additional financial stress, especially for young renters and those on lower incomes.” Mr Raimondo says.
This inherent insecurity in renting has been targeted by improving the rights of tenants, especially those pet owners who are moving homes or trying to access the rental market.
“Tenants who rent should be able to enjoy the premises they rent like anyone else,” says Mr Raimondo. “Being able to hang a print or painting or keep a pet should not be the decision of the landlord. There are literally thousands of pets a year who end up in shelters when tenants need to relocate but are not allowed to take their pet with them. This is both distressing and inhumane.”
The RSPCA calculated that 15 per cent of its total intake for the last two financial years was from renters who were forced to give up their pets.
Mr Raimondo concluded, “Whilst welcoming the reforms, the introduction of a landlord and estate agent blacklist should be revisited. I don’t think it serves any useful purpose. If the government wants to introduce a blacklist then it should also include those tenants who trash houses, leave rubbish or abscond without paying rent.”