Rental market could decline
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.