Western Australia has followed the lead of other states and has embarked on a full review of its rental laws.
The state last reviewed its laws more than a decade ago, and it has reached out to tenants, landlords and property managers to get their input on what needs to change.
“Compared to over 10 years ago, many more tenants are not in a position to own a property and would like a guaranteed lease for a place they can call home. We’ll be looking at striking the balance between long-term investment returns for landlords and the stability tenants want and need in today’s marketplace,” Consumer Protection commissioner David Hillyard said.
“Ideas for change that are up for discussion include the possibility of a minimum duration for fixed-term tenancies, such as two years, or even making all tenancies periodic, rolling leases.
“As a tenant, should I be allowed to hang a family portrait on the wall, have my pet live with me or plant a veggie patch in the garden? And should a landlord have to declare certain information at the start of a tenancy, such as intent to sell within the next 12 months or asbestos or meth residue that’s present? These are the sorts of things we want people to provide feedback on.”
An attitude shift might be needed for when it comes to how investment properties are viewed, Mr Hillyard said, such as the maintenance of those properties when they are occupied.
“We hear of landlords who don’t want to spend money repairing or upgrading properties and tenants who are afraid to report problems — including toilets that don’t flush, lack of hot water or cooktops not working — for fear of eviction.
“On the flip side, there are horror stories about rental homes being trashed, and that raises the question, should Consumer Protection have powers to step into the shoes of landlords and prosecute tenants for an offence of wilful damage?
“Thankfully, stories of bad tenants and bad landlords are the exception to the norm.”
The main things up for consideration in the view will include whether there should be a registration scheme for landlords and an option for Consumer Protection to act as a mediator between owners and tenants.
This would allow the commissioner to be able to make tenancy dispute rulings.
Additionally, it could explore more tenancy opportunities for landlords and tenants.
“Owners wanting to make some extra money might like to rent out a room in their home, but these sorts of arrangements are not currently captured by WA tenancy laws. Bringing them under the umbrella of the Residential Tenancies Act could make it a viable option for more people, including seniors. Meanwhile, for renters on lower incomes, this could be a cheaper accommodation option,” Mr Hillyard said.