Landlords will be forced to repay tenants' expenses of up to $1,800 for urgent repairs and additional restrictions will apply to listing renters on tenancy databases, under new laws to be introduced in Victoria later this month.
The Minister for Consumer Affairs Michael O’Brien claimed that tenants in Victoria willl be better protected by changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, which will include increasing the maximum amount payable by a landlord or property owner for urgent repairs from $1,000 to $1,800.
In addition, landlords and their agents will have to notify the local council if they suspect their property is being used as an unregistered rooming house.
“Consumer Affairs Victoria has prepared guidelines for landlords and agents to help them meet their obligations, so they will be clear on what they have to do,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Consumer Affairs Victoria has consulted with the REIV about the changes, and in addition all estate agents in Victoria will receive information from Consumer Affairs about the changes.”
Mr O’Brien said the revisions to the Act would also tighten the use of tenancy databases and protect tenants.
If a landlord accesses information about a tenant on a tenancy database, they must inform the tenant in writing within seven days.
Mr O’Brien encouraged landlords and agents to be mindful of when they can and can’t add a tenant to a database.
“Under the Residential Tenancies Act, if a tenant signed an agreement and then breached it by not paying the rent, or used the property for illegal purposes, they can be listed on a database,” Mr O’Brien said.
“The tenant cannot be listed for exercising their rights, for example, by asking for repairs to be made.
“Tenancy databases can be a valuable tool for real estate agents in assessing the suitability of tenants, however it’s vital that they be used appropriately and with the knowledge of tenants.”
Sam Nokes, senior property manager at Buxton (Ashburton), in Melbourne, said the changes to the tenancy database could limit his ability to alert others about problem tenants.
"The legislation changes regarding the tenancy database have ultimately restricted what an agent can and can not comment on, which now focuses soley on regular payment checks," Mr Nokes said.
"For instance, if you have tenant who doesn't maintain the property correctly but pays in full when they leave, there is nothing I can say or do."
"I have dealt with fantastic tenants in the past that have had some monetary problems. This database will now blacklist them, and make it difficult for them to find another home in the future."