Urgent and non-urgent repairs
The existing definition of urgent repairs will be expanded to include breakdown of a cooling appliance, non-compliance with minimum standards or the safety-related obligations (such as a functioning smoke alarm), pest infestation and mould caused by the building structure. This reform also applies to urgent repairs in rooming houses and caravans.
The limit for renters to authorise urgent repairs when their residential rental provider (RRP) has not promptly responded to an urgent repair request will be increased to reflect inflation from the current limit of $1,800. The revised limit will be prescribed in regulations. This reform also applies to rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks.
The Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria will issue guidelines clarifying timeframes for responding to urgent repairs. VCAT will be required to have regard to the guidelines when determining urgent repairs disputes. This reform also applies to rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks.
Renters who have paid for urgent repairs up to the prescribed amount will be able to seek reimbursement from the RRP for the reasonable costs of repair within seven days, instead of 14 days. A failure by the RRP to reimburse the renter will entitle the renter to seek a compensation order from VCAT. This reform also applies to rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks.
For non-urgent repairs, renters will be able to apply directly to VCAT if the RRP has not carried out notified repairs within 14 days. While renters will still be able to request a CAV repairs report, renters will no longer be required to obtain this report before applying to VCAT. This reform also applies to non-urgent repairs in rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks.
To encourage residential rental providers to maintain their properties in good repair, renters will have increased access to the Rent Special Account. The Rent Special Account is designed to hold rent payments that have been redirected when the RRP has not undertaken any necessary repairs. Upon application by the renter, VCAT will be required to order that rent be paid into the Rent Special Account instead of to the RRP, unless the RRP can prove that they would experience financial hardship if the rent was paid into the Rent Special Account. If, despite having been ordered by VCAT to undertake repairs, the RRP still has not fulfilled their duty, the renter may now apply to have any rent held in the Rent Special Account repaid to them in full as compensation for the inconvenience of having to wait for repairs to be performed. This reform also applies to rental arrangements in rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks, and responsibility for administering the Rent Special Account will be moved from VCAT to the RTBA.
The rise in apartment living means the Act must increasingly be able to address issues such as repairs that involve an owners corporation.
Currently, where a residence is part of an apartment building or another complex managed by an owners corporation, RRPs may need to obtain approval before commencing repairs. Alternatively, a repair may have been caused by factors relating to the common property, such that the RRP would need to obtain redress from the owners corporation. This can often force the renter to endure delays, particularly if there is a dysfunctional owners corporation.
The Act will be amended to provide that, where it is alleged that a repair involves a problem or defect originating in any common property, the RRP may join any relevant owners corporation as a party to the proceeding.