COVID-19 has brought many challenges to our industry, with the delay of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act being just the latest. Originally due to come into play on 1 July 2020, the amendments and rental reforms are now expected to be introduced on 29 March 2021.
The government has provided an outline of what these 130 changes will look like, under the following categories:
- Starting a tenancy
- Living in a rental property
- Leaving a rental property
- Repairs, modifications and property conditions
- Reforms unique to rooming houses
- Reforms unique to caravan parks and residential parks
- Family violence and personal violence
- Long-term leases
- Other changes
While this is a start, the information provided gives very little detail of what we can expect, with some items explained in just one sentence. The time frames also remain pretty unclear — though we are now being told that these changes will take effect in March, there is every chance this could be delayed again.
The question marks around the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act are weighing heavily on property managers’ minds at the moment. We’re unable to plan ahead without more information on what to expect — the devil is in the detail, and without clarity around these changes, we’re left to speculate. It’s like going on a trip without a roadmap — we’re basically driving blind, and the government needs to give us a hand.
Across the industry, we know that most people have been working throughout COVID-19 without taking any personal or annual leave, simply because everyone is so overloaded at the moment. This workload is only set to increase, as we look down the barrel at the end of JobKeeper, which is also set to end in March 2021. This will likely lead to an increase in arrears and greater difficulty in leasing properties. What’s more, remote working means that it is very difficult to train people for these new circumstances, especially on top of dealing with COVID-related problems.
We are getting closer to the light at the end of the tunnel as restrictions ease, but a change to the Residential Tenancies Act will mean a number of new variables will enter the equation — and without knowing what those are, we’re in the dark again. We’re now four months away from 130 regulation changes, with very little idea of what these changes will actually entail, and how they will affect our day-to-day work and the bigger picture.
It’s time for the government to step up and clarify these reforms as soon as possible, so that businesses like ours can properly plan for the time to come. We’re in a time of uncertainty for everyone, from landlords to tenants, and we need to be able to prepare for these changes to ensure a smooth transition. It is in everyone’s best interests that the government acts now.
Anthony Webb is the CEO of PhilipWebb Real Estate.