Changes crit­i­cised

Rental mar­ket could de­cline

The Cobram Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By Pa­trick Tansey

One dis­trict real es­tate agent be­lieves re­cent changes to the Res­i­den­tial Ten­an­cies Bill 2018 (RTA) has the po­ten­tial to cre­ate a short­age in Co­bram’s rental mar­ket.

The Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced changes to the RTA to make rent­ing fairer for all par­ties. The changes were of­fi­cially passed in par­lia­ment on Septem­ber 6.

It is the big­gest change to the RTA since it was im­ple­mented more than two decades ago, but ac­cord­ing to Kerr Real Es­tate prop­erty man­ager Jeanette Nel­son, the changes aren’t nec­es­sar­ily a good thing.

One of the most eye-grab­bing amend­ments is that pro­tec­tions for pet own­ers will be stronger, with res­i­den­tial rental providers only able to refuse the right of a tenant to have a pet by or­der of the Vic­to­rian Civil and Ad­min­is­tra­tive Tri­bunal.

‘‘That could be­come a bit of a prob­lem in small prop­er­ties where it is not suit­able to have a pet and in which the land­lord may want to move back in and may have al­ler­gies to an­i­mals,’’ Ms Nel­son said.

‘‘We have a fair pro­por­tion of rentals that are pet friendly, but we do use our dis­cre­tion a lit­tle bit, so that is prob­a­bly go­ing to change once the new laws are im­ple­mented.’’

Some of the other changes to the RTA which Ms Nel­son does not like in­clude ten­ants be­ing able to make pre­scribed mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the prop­erty with­out the land­lord’s con­sent, as well as the re­moval of the 120-day ‘no rea­son’ no­tice to va­cate, where the land­lord wants their own prop­erty back for a rea­son not spec­i­fied in the leg­is­la­tion.

She said while most changes seemed un­nec­es­sary, there were a cou­ple that would be wel­comed by peo­ple ac­cess­ing the rental mar­ket as well as agents.

One of those is that ev­ery rental home will need to meet ba­sic stan­dards, with func­tion­ing stoves, heating and dead­locks.

It will also re­quire land­lords to meet ba­sic safety stan­dards for gas, elec­tric­ity and smoke alarms.

‘‘That one is go­ing to be a good change be­cause it will force land­lords to main­tain their prop­erty to a cer­tain stan­dard,’’ Ms Nel­son said.

She be­lieves the new laws will ul­ti­mately place the bal­ance of power with the tenant

‘‘I think if you are a home owner and you have a prob­lem with the tenant and you re­ally want them out, I think it’s go­ing to be a lot harder to re­move them and prove your case to VCAT,’’ she said.

Ms Nel­son said Co­bram’s cur­rent rental mar­ket saw homes snapped up ex­tremely quickly, with Kerr Real Es­tate rarely hav­ing rentals empty for more than a week.

She said the changes to the RTA could sig­nif­i­cantly al­ter the mar­ket.

‘‘Over­all, the changes are more in favour of the ten­ants and I think long-term peo­ple may think twice be­fore they buy in­vest­ment prop­er­ties be­cause there just seems to be a few more ob­sta­cles now, so we may even­tu­ally see a bit of a short­age of rental prop­er­ties in the area,’’ she said.

An­drew Jenk­ins Real Es­tate prop­erty man­ager Amanda Ram­say agreed dras­tic changes to the bill were un­nec­es­sary.

‘‘Some new laws I do be­lieve are fair,’’ she said.

‘‘Oth­ers, such as get­ting rid of the 120-day no rea­son no­tice, wasn’t needed. The land­lord owns the house and has the right to ask a tenant to va­cate.’’

She sug­gested some changes that would have been more ap­pro­pri­ate.

‘‘What needed to be added to the bill is more op­tions for land­lords to deal with trou­ble­some ten­ants,’’ she said.

‘‘(Things) such as ten­ants who have, for in­stance, been be­hind in rent con­stantly by 10 days or more. Some ten­ants have been known to stretch their rent out close to the 15-day no­tice to va­cate and then pay.

‘‘Some­thing that should be added is a no­tice to va­cate if a tenant is be­hind on rent more than five times.’’

The Real Es­tate In­sti­tute of Vic­to­ria has ve­he­mently op­posed el­e­ments of the leg­is­la­tion, with chief ex­ec­u­tive Gil King ar­gu­ing they had ‘‘swung the pen­du­lum of rights over­whelm­ingly to renters’’.

Rental vacancy rates have con­tin­ued to de­cline in re­gional Vic­to­ria over the last 15 years and are now at an all-time low of 1.5 per cent, ac­cord­ing to REIV.

‘‘There are fears that the RTA 2018 will make it too hard and too risky for land­lords to rent their prop­er­ties out, which could fur­ther con­strain the al­ready tight rental mar­ket,’’ Mr King said.

It is not yet known when the bill will come into ef­fect.

The cur­rent RTA 1997 will re­main in place for the fore­see­able fu­ture af­ter the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment de­clared there would be a pe­riod of con­sul­ta­tion that could take up to 18 months.

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