Rental reforms Victoria: Full lists of minimum standards, minor modifications
Samantha Landy | Hearld Sun |29 Jan 2021
The minor modifications Victorian tenants will soon be able to make to their homes have been confirmed, alongside new minimum standards for rental properties.
The Victorian Government this week released the long-awaited details of these major rental law reforms and confirmed they’ll come into effect on March 29 — the day after the COVID-driven bans on evictions and rent hikes end — alongside dozens of other changes.
From that date, tenants will be able to install picture hooks, LED globes, wall anchoring devices to secure furniture and child safety gates, among other changes, without their landlord’s permission. Landlords also must not unreasonably refuse consent for modifications like painting and planting vegetable and herb gardens.
And rental properties will need to meet basic standards, like having fitted heaters, hot and cold water, and kitchens with functioning sinks, cooktops and ovens.
The minimum standards will apply to all new rental agreements that begin from March 29.
Tenants with agreements that began before this date can seek urgent repairs for a range of issues including broken toilets, non-functioning hot water, and mould. And anyone due to begin a rental agreement before March 29 can request the minimum standards be written into their agreement.
The reforms were among 130 amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act that passed Victorian parliament in 2018.
Several have already come into effect, notably blocking landlords from “unreasonably” preventing tenants from keeping pets and limiting rent rises to once a year. The majority had been delayed by the pandemic, but all 130 will apply from March 29.
Tenants Victoria chief executive Jennifer Beveridge said her organisation welcomed the “significant reforms that will improve the lives of many Victorians who rent their homes”, and the release of more detailed information about them.
“We are analysing the detailed measures, but are confident these regulations will help renters become more secure in their homes and enjoy far greater amenity over time,” she said.
Real Estate Institute of Victoria chief executive Gil King urged the government to show “leniency” towards non-compliant landlords in the first few months under the heavily amended Residential Tenancies Act.
“This is changing fundamentally how real estate agents and property management will work,” he said.
“Landlords have gone through 12 months of reduced rent (due to COVID-19), and … I’m not sure how some are going to be able to afford this.”
Mr King said while most Victorian rental properties already complied with the majority of the minimum standards, the requirement to install a fixed energy-efficient heater could be particularly “expensive to achieve” — a cost that could be passed on to tenants.
And some of the measures, particularly one regarding ventilation, could be challenging for landlords to understand.
He added while most of the allowed modifications were minor, they could significantly alter the character of a property if tenants opted to undertake several at once.
Mr King said educating and training Victoria’s landlords and property managers within two months would be a huge undertaking, noting the REIV would be applying for government funding to boost its resources to achieve this.
“We’ve known about the (incoming changes) to the Act for a long time, but we’ve only just received the actual regulations this week,” he said.
“It’s going to be a real challenge to get all our members trained up, then agents who aren’t our members, and then all the landlords who don’t have real estate agents (and may be) blissfully ignorant about these changes.”
A government spokesperson said landlords and property managers had been given “extensive notice … and fair warning to ensure that when the eviction moratorium ends, all rental properties comply with these regulations”.
“These new regulations do not place excessive obligations on rental providers, and we believe there is no reason for rental properties not to adhere to these regulations by the time the new laws come into effect,” the spokesperson said.
Earlier this week, Consumer Affairs Minister Melissa Horne said the changes were designed to “protect vulnerable tenants and turn rental properties from a house into a real home”.
From March 29, without their landlord’s consent, renters will be able to install:
-Picture hooks or screws for wall mounts, shelves or brackets on surfaces other than exposed brick or concrete walls
-Wall anchoring devices on surfaces other than exposed brick or concrete walls to secure furniture
-LED light globes that don’t require new light fittings
-A water-efficient shower head if the original shower head is retained
-Blind or cord anchors
-Hardware-mounted child safety gates on walls other than exposed brick or concrete walls, or pressure-mounted child safety gates
-Adhesive child safety locks on drawers and doors
-Security lights, alarm systems or security cameras that do not impact the privacy of neighbours, can be easily removed and are not hardwired to the property
-Non-permanent window film for insulation, reduced heat transfer or privacy
-A wireless doorbell
-A lock on a letterbox
-Replacement curtains if the original curtains are retained by the previous renter
From March 29, landlords must not unreasonably refuse consent for:
-The installation of picture hooks or screws for wall mounts, shelves or brackets on exposed brick or concrete walls
-The installation of hardware-mounted child safety gates on exposed brick or concrete walls
-The installation of wall anchoring devices on exposed brick or concrete walls to secure items of furniture
-Draught proofing in homes without open-flued gas heating, including installing weather seals, caulking or gap filling around windows, doors, skirting and floorboards
-A suitably qualified person to install a security system that does not impact on the privacy of neighbours, if the landlord is provided with an invoice with the name of the installer at the time consent is requested
-The installation of flyscreens on doors and windows
-The planting of a vegetable or herb garden
-The installation of a secure letterbox
-The painting of the rented premises
-Modifications to secure external gates in rentals that are not multi-unit buildings
MINIMUM STANDARDS FOR VICTORIAN RENTALS
All external entry doors that are not able to be secured with a functioning deadlock (other than any screen door attached to an external door) must at least be fitted with a locking device that is operated by a key from the outside, or may be unlocked from the inside