The Spinoff: New rules for renters and landlords kick in this week. Here’s what you need to know

Last year a swathe of new rental reforms were passed into law. This week, a number of those finally come into effect. So what can you expect?

What's all this?

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 delivered one of the most significant updates to our rental regulations in years. While some of those changes are already in effect, most of the biggies come into force from this Thursday, February 11.

So, what changes are we talking about?

There’s a whole heap, so let’s start with the most significant.

Goodbye, no cause terminations!

Landlords will no longer be allowed to end a periodic tenancy without cause simply by providing 90 days’ notice. Instead, new termination grounds will be available to landlords under a periodic tenancy and the required notice periods have also changed.

A landlord can still evict a tenant on a periodic tenancy if the owner or a member of the owner’s family requires the property as their principal place of residence. But, under the new rules, this will require a fairly lengthy 63 days’ notice. With 90 days’ notice, a landlord can inform the tenant that the property is to be sold, renovated, or demolished.

Notice periods for tenants to terminate a periodic tenancy will increase from 21 to 28 days.

Tenants can make their rentals feel more like a home

Landlords can now no longer unreasonably deny a tenant’s request to make minor changes to the property. So, if you want to hang those shelves or put up that painting, a landlord is pretty much barred from preventing you unless it’s going to leave permanent damage to the property or cause structural harm. The first thing I’ll be doing is wall-mounting my Dyson because, well, why the hell not.

Of course, landlords can place some minor limitations around these changes – but they cannot be unreasonable. Tenants are responsible for any costs associated with the installation and reversal of any minor change that they request.

The exact definition of what qualifies as a “minor” change is still up for debate, although if you want to paint your rental orange you should be prepared to either redo it when you move out or face some costs.

Prohibitions on rental bidding

Gone will be the days where landlords can encourage prospective tenants to outbid one another for a property. As of Thursday, rental properties cannot be advertised without a rental price listed and landlords cannot invite or encourage tenants to bid on the rental. However, if you offer a landlord more money than the listed price and they accept your offer, that will still be legal.

Fibre broadband

Landlords can no longer prevent tenants from having fibre broadband installed, provided it will be at no cost to them. You’ll soon be able to watch the latest episode of The Bachelorette without it buffering!

What else is changing?

The new law also makes a number of other, smaller changes.

Changes for fixed-term tenancies

All fixed-term tenancy agreements will convert to periodic tenancies at the end of the fixed-term unless the parties agree otherwise, the tenant gives 28 days’ notice, or the landlord gives notice in accordance with the termination grounds for periodic tenancies.

The Tenancy Tribunal

The Tenancy Tribunal can now suppress the names and identifying details of parties in its decisions. This might be to protect hard done by renters from being unofficially blacklisted, for example. Any party who wishes for this to happen must apply to the Tribunal first and, unsurprisingly, it relies on the Tribunal’s discretion.

One major change is that now, by default, any party that has applied for suppression and has been wholly or substantially successful in their application to the Tribunal will have any identifying details automatically removed from the decision.

Assignment of tenancies

All requests to assign a tenancy must be considered and landlords are no longer able to decline a request unreasonably. So, if you want your recently divorced best mate to take over your lease, a landlord cannot automatically decline this request. If a residential tenancy agreement prohibits assignment, it is illegal.

That's a lot! Is that it?

Nope, there are more rule changes but the rest are pretty technical. Tenancy Services has a comprehensive list of the changes here. You can always, of course, go and read the legislation itself, too.

Are there still more changes on the way?

This is phase two of three, meaning there are a couple of extra regulations coming into force later this year, tentatively around August (roughly one year after the law first passed). This will see further protections for victims of domestic violence.

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