There will be clearer obligations for residential rental providers (RRPs) to provide and maintain the property in good repair, and in a reasonably fit and suitable condition for occupation, despite the age and character of the property. This reform is intended to address a mistaken belief among some RRPs and their agents that it is unnecessary to undertake repairs to premises that are old and run-down, and that a renter should accept a property in disrepair if they have agreed to pay lower rent.
RRPs will be required to ensure that the rental properties they let out comply with prescribed rental minimum standards. The minimum standards that will be prescribed will include basic, yet critical requirements relating to amenity, safety and privacy, such as:
- a vermin proof rubbish bin
- a functioning toilet
- adequate hot and cold water connections in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry
- external windows that have functioning latches to secure against external entry
- a functioning cooktop, oven, sink and food preparation area
- functioning heating in the property’s main living area
- window coverings to ensure privacy in any room the owner knows is likely to be a bedroom or main living area.
RRPs will be given time to bring their properties up to scratch before the minimum standards come into effect.
The power to prescribe rental minimum standards has been flexible designed, so that it can incorporate standards imposed under other Victorian legislation, such as energy and water efficiency requirements.
If a property does not comply with the prescribed rental minimum standards, the renter can terminate the residential rental agreement before they move in, or they can move in and request compliance as an urgent repair. If the RRP fails to bring property up to standard following the urgent repair request, VCAT can order that the rent be redirected into the Rent Special Account.
Insurance companies commonly require deadlocks as a condition of obtaining full insurance cover, meaning that renters who live in a property without a functioning deadlock may not be eligible for compensation in the event of a burglary. RRPs will be required to ensure that any external doors are secured with a functioning deadlock. Deadlocks on windows are not recommended due to concerns about obstructing access to or from the property in an emergency.
A more robust condition reporting process will clarify obligations to complete a condition report at the start and end of a residential rental agreement. Condition reporting will be required regardless of whether a bond is taken at the start of the rental agreement. Electronic reporting will be permitted by the Residential Tenancies Act.
A RRP will also be required to complete a report at the end of a residential rental agreement, and to give the renter an opportunity to agree to the report. Renters and RRPs will also be able to have the condition report amended, whether or not the report has been signed. This reform also applies to condition reporting in rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks.
The Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria will issue maintenance guidelines which must be taken into account by VCAT when determining a dispute about maintenance. The guidelines will list maintenance activities for which the RRP and renter are responsible. This reform also applies to rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks.
The Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria will issue guidelines setting out examples or instances of cleanliness and repair. VCAT will be required to have regard to the guidelines when determining related disputes. This reform also applies to rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks.
The Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria will issue guidelines clarifying the meaning of damage and fair wear and tear. VCAT will be required to have regard to the guidelines when determining related disputes. This reform also applies to rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks.
The duties for renters around reasonable cleanliness and avoiding damage will be clarified to take fair wear and tear into account. Renters will be required to leave the property reasonably clean and in the same condition as at the start of the tenancy, taking into account fair wear and tear to the property. This reform also applies to rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks.
Renters or their visitors must not intentionally or negligently cause or permit damage to the property and common areas, and renters must notify the RRP as soon as practicable of any damage to the property. Damage does not include fair wear and tear caused by a renter or visitor.
If a renter causes damage to the rented premises, the RRP may give the renter a repair notice, and the renter is liable for the cost of repairing damage they caused. Amendments will allow the renter to seek an extension of time at VCAT to the 14-day period for complying with a request from the RRP to repair damage to the property, or to reimburse the RRP for any remedial action they have taken to repair the damage.
VCAT will be required to take depreciation into account when assessing an RRP’s claims for compensation for damage to rented premises. This reform also applies to rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks.
Renters will be required to report damage or breakdown of facilities in the property. A renter who becomes aware of the need for a repair to the premises will have to give notice as soon as possible to the RRP or agent. The aim of this reform is to minimise any reluctance the renter may feel to request a repair that has not previously been documented (for example, in the condition report), and to ensure that RRPs are able to prevent damage to the property that would occur if a repair was unnecessarily delayed. A failure by the renter to report a defect would not lead to a breach of any other duty. However, if the renter subsequently alleges that the RRP did not comply with their repair obligations, or tries to claim damages for reduced amenity, VCAT will be able to consider whether, and when, the RRP was actually notified of the problem.
If a residential rental agreement includes a prescribed term setting out safety-related activities (such as testing smoke alarms) that must be completed during the tenancy, the RRP and renter will be required to undertake their respective safety-related activities and, where relevant, ensure the activity is carried out by a suitably qualified person.
RRPs will be required to comply with prescribed requirements recording and producing gas and electrical safety checks conducted at the property.
Renters and rooming house residents will be required to not remove, deactivate or interfere with the operation of a prescribed safety device, unless it is reasonable in the circumstances to do so (for example, if the reason for removal was to repair or replace it). Examples of prescribed safety devices could include smoke alarms and pool fences.