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Key Changes To Victorian Rental Laws You Need To Know Post COVID-19

The COVID19 pandemic has significantly impacted tenants throughout Australia and across all kinds of tenancies. In Victoria there have been recent and key changes to both legislation and support, making it crucial for tenants to understand their rights.

Commercial rent relief scheme

In order to alleviate the financial pressures of rental commitments that many businesses have been experiencing, the Victorian Government reintroduced the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme in August 2021 which give businesses on a commercial or rental lease the ability to seek rental relief from their rental provider.

The scheme will help small and medium-sized businesses with an annual turnover of less than $50 million that have experienced a fall in turnover of more than 30 per cent during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The scheme provides the following relief:

  • Eligible businesses to receive in the form of a proportionate reduction in rent.
  • Information to negotiate an agreement and free mediation for those who need assistance provided by the Victorian Small Business Commission.
  • Land tax relief of up to 25 per cent for landlords doing the right thing by eligible tenants in addition to any previous 2021 land tax relief, at an estimated cost of $100 million.
  • Small landlords who can demonstrate acute hardship will be eligible to apply for payments as part of a $20 million hardship fund.

Further information about the Scheme is available on the Victorian Small Business Commission website.

Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (the Act)

Key changes to the Act replace the temporary renting laws that were enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a tenant, it is important to be aware of such changes and how they can impact your leasing agreement.

Who is affected?

New renting laws effect all types of tenancies, private rentals, caravan and residential parks as well as rooming houses.

These laws will apply to the following:

  • new fixed term rental agreements on or after 29 March 2021;
  • new periodic rental agreements on or after 29 March 2021; or
  • agreements that roll over to a periodic rental agreement from a fixed term rental agreement on or after 29 March 2021.

End of ‘no specified reason’ evictions

Rental providers are now required to provide a valid reason if they choose to end a lease.

Some valid reasons to end a rental agreement include:

  • property sale;
  • change of use or demolition of the rental property; or
  • the rental provider moving back into the rental property.

Immediate notice to vacate

It is important to be aware that rental providers are able to issue a notice to vacate immediately if the tenant or their visitor does any of the following:

  • The tenant or their visitor has intentionally or recklessly caused serious damage to the property, including safety equipment and common areas;
  • The tenant or their visitor has put neighbours, the rental provider or the provider’s agent, or their contractors or employees, in danger;
  • The tenant or another person occupying the premises has seriously threatened or intimidated the rental provider or their agent, contractor or employee; or
  • The premises are unfit for human habitation, destroyed totally or destroyed to the extent that they are unsafe.

Ending fixed-term agreements

For fixed-term agreements that are less than 5 years, rental providers are not required to provide a reason if they ask tenants to vacate at the end of the first fixed term. For any time after the first fixed term, a reason must be provided to tenants.

Bans on rental bidding

Under new rental laws, rental providers can no longer advertise properties for rent within a price range. It is illegal for rental providers or agents to invite higher offers than the advertised rate which must be a fixed amount.

New rental minimum standards

There are now minimum standards for new rental agreements that must be met by rental providers. If these standards are not met, the tenant is able to terminate the rental agreement prior to moving in or can request an urgent repair.

There are minimum standards for the following 14 categories:

  • Locks
  • Vermin proof bins
  • Toilets
  • Bathroom
  • Kitchen
  • Laundry
  • Structural soundness
  • Mould and damp
  • Electrical safety
  • Window coverings
  • Windows
  • Lighting
  • Ventilation
  • Heating

Am I able to make modifications?

Previously, tenants were unable to make modifications to the premises. However, under new laws, unless rental providers have “reasonable reason”, tenants are able to make certain modifications without consent from their rental provider.

What will happen if my rent is overdue?

Any notice to vacate is invalidated if the tenant pays back overdue rent within 14 days. VCAT must dismiss any application for a possession order for the first four notices to vacate, however if the tenant falls into arrears or fails to pay rent a fifth time, the rental provider’s application for a possession order will be valid.

Getting your bond back

Tenants can now apply to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA) to have all or part of their bond released without the permission of their Rental Provider.

In order to dispute a claim, a rental provider will need to provide evidence of their VCAT claim for compensation within 14 days.

Get in touch Elit Lawyers by McGirr & Snell should you require advice and assistance regarding a rental dispute.

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