The Residential Tenancy Amendment Act 2013 commenced on 1 October 2014.
This means that there are some changes in the rights and obligations of property owners and tenants.
• Changes to certain notice periods
• Changes to the role of the residential tenancy commissioner
• The creation of minimum standards for premises*
• Clarification about definitions and other various matters
• Several provisions specific to social housing
These new provisions will apply to all residential tenancy agreements signed on or after 1 October 2014.
If your agreement was signed prior to 1 October 2014, most of the new provisions will not apply to your agreement for 12 months.
The exceptions are:
• The provision allowing the changing of locks and devices where the tenant is the subject of a family violence order (section 57)
• The provision stating that a tenancy ceases on the death of the tenant (section 49B)
These two sections apply from commencement.
* Several additional minor changes to the minimum standards and the provisions relating to photographs are currently being drafted and will be put to Parliament by the end of the year.
An updated version of Consumer Affairs’ Rental Guide, including information on the minimum standards, will be released when this has occurred.
Changes to notice periods
Owners are required to give tenants on a fixed-term agreement at least 42 days’ notice in cases where their lease is not going to be renewed or extended beyond the term of the existing agreement.
Agreements of no fixed term can be ended if:
• There is an agreement to sell or transfer the property
• The property is to be used for another purpose (ie. the owner plans to live there)
• The premises is to be used as a residence by a member of the owner’s family
• There are to be significant renovations to the property
In these cases, the tenant needs to be given at least 42 days’ notice to vacate.
If a property is to be foreclosed or sold by a mortgagee, the tenant is to be given 60 days’ notice to vacate.
Role of the residential tenancy commissioner
The residential tenancy commissioner is now responsible for considering applications regarding unreasonable rent increases and making orders for repair following receipt of an application of complaint from a tenant. Before these changes, the magistrates’ court considered these applications.
The changes will mean that this process will no longer involve an application fee and will not require an appearance in court. An application can now be made using the Consumer Affairs complaint form.
Various other definitions and changes
The Amendment Act also provides the following:
• Owners are required to repair or replace all tap washers and light globes and light tubes that are reasonably inaccessible
• Tenants are required to replace accessible light globes
• Rent can only be increased every twelve months. Previously, rent could be increased on a six-month basis
• When a fixed-term agreement expires, if the tenant continues to live in the property and pay rent, the agreement becomes one of no-fixed term immediately. Previously, there was a 28-day period before this change occurred
• An “essential service” requiring repair can also be “replaced” if the replacement is of the same standard
• If a cooking stove requires repair, this must occur within 14 days (as opposed to 28 days for other general repairs)
• Rental properties must be advertised and offered at a fixed price
• Rent bidding and price bands for rent are no longer allowed