Recent reforms have changed minumum standards in Victoria

Rental providers have a duty to ensure their rental property meets the rental minimum standards. The minimum standards will be set in April 2020 following public consultation in November 2019 through Engage Victoria.

Non-compliance with minimum standards

Rental providers must ensure that the property complies with minimum standards before a renter moves in. If a property does not comply with the minimum standards, the renter can terminate the rental agreement before they move in, or they can request an urgent repair.

Repairs or replacements to:

  • broken air conditioning - any failure or breakdown of a cooling appliance or service provided by the rental provider is covered.
  • broken safety devices - smoke alarms and pool fences are examples of safety devices.
  • faults that make the property unsafe or insecure - unsafe or insecure faults include pest infestations, and mould or damp caused by or related to the rental property are now considered ‘urgent repairs’.

A rental provider must respond immediately if a renter requests an urgent repair. If they don’t respond immediately, the renter can arrange the repairs themselves and seek reimbursement from the rental provider.  A full summary of Minimum Standards can be found on pages

Urgent repairs guidelines

The scope of works considered as ‘Urgent Repair has been expanded and includes non-compliant minimum standards.

Increased limit for urgent repairs reimbursement is $2500.

Making modifications in rental properties

Renters can make certain modifications to their homes without the consent of the rental provider. To make other modifications renters will need the consent of their rental provider. All modifications need to be reversed at the end of the rental agreement.

What modifications can a renter make without seeking the rental provider’s consent?

Community consultations will be undertaken on what modifications renters will be able to make without seeking consent. The final list will be available in April 2020.

What types of modifications require the rental provider’s consent?

For all other modifications, the renter must get the rental provider’s permission before starting the work.

Are there rules about how the rental provider must consider modification requests?

Yes. The rental provider can only refuse the following modifications if there is a reasonable reason for doing so:   

  • does not penetrate or permanently change surfaces, fixtures or the structure of the property. For example, nails
  • are required for health and safety purposes. For example, an anti-tilt strap for a bookshelf
  • are reasonable disability-related modifications under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. An occupational therapist or other specified practitioner must have determined they are necessary. For example, grab rails or handrails
  • ensures access to telecommunications services such as internet, TV or phone
  • are reasonable security measures such as security screens and deadlocks
  • are necessary to ensure the safety of a renter who has been or is subject to family violence by another party to the rental agreement
  • are necessary to ensure the safety of a renter who is a protected person under a personal safety intervention order made against another party to the rental agreement. For example, a deadlock on an external door
  • are necessary to increase the thermal comfort or reduce the energy and water usage costs for the property.

What is a reasonable reason for refusing consent?

The refusal must be sound, fair and sensible.

Example, it would be reasonable for a rental provider to refuse to consent to a modification that would break the owners’ corporation rules, or a modification that the renter would not be able to reverse.

If a renter believes consent has been unreasonably refused, they can apply to the VCAT to review the decision. VCAT must hear the application within five days.

Can a rental provider impose conditions for approval of a modification?

Yes.

 As a condition of their consent, the rental provider may require that the modification be completed by a suitably qualified person (for example, a licensed electrician).

The rental provider can also ask the renter to pay additional bond money of up to $500 to cover the cost of reversing the modification.

Do renters need to reverse the modifications made to the property?

Before the end of the rental agreement, the renter must reverse the modifications (fair wear or tear excepted) or pay the rental provider for the cost of reversing them, unless both parties have agreed otherwise.

VCAT to consider depreciation 

VCAT must consider depreciation when assessing a rental provider’s claim for compensation for damage to rented property.

Safety-related activities

Renters and rental providers must undertake safety-related activities set out in the rental agreement. Where necessary, they must ensure the activity is carried out by a suitably qualified person.

Records of gas and electrical safety checks

Rental providers must comply with prescribed requirements for keeping and producing records of gas and electrical safety checks conducted at the property.

Interference with safety devices

Renters must not remove, deactivate or interfere with the operation of a prescribed safety device (e.g. smoke alarm), unless it is reasonable to do so.

Locks for external doors and windows

Rental providers must ensure that external doors are secured with a working deadlock and each window capable of having a lock has one. There are exceptions, for example if there is a screen door attached to an external door with a deadlock.

Rental provider joining owners corporation to repair application

Where an application is made to VCAT for a breach of duty where the alleged repair involves a problem or defect originating from the adjoining common property, the rental provider may join any relevant owners corporation as a party to the application.

Family violence and personal violence

Accessing family or personal violence protections in the Act

 In determining an application under the family or personal violence provisions, VCAT must take into account whether the applicant has applied for a family violence intervention order, a family violence safety notice, a non-local domestic violence order, or a personal safety intervention order, and other evidence of family or personal violence.

VCAT to decide on terminations of rental agreements in family violence situations:

  • VCAT can decide on terminations of rental agreements in family and personal violence situations.
  • VCAT can terminate an agreement or require creation of a new agreement that does not include the alleged perpetrator of the family or personal violence.
  • VCAT can be nominated to serve documents on perpetrators of family or personal violence
  • Renters who are subjected to family or personal violence may request VCAT to serve documents on a perpetrator of family or personal violence to commence proceedings at VCAT.

Moving to the new rental laws, there are some exceptions for existing agreements

The full set of new rental laws will come into effect on 29 March 2021.Some laws will not apply to rental providers and renters who have existing rental agreements until these agreements end.

Rental agreement is:

  • a fixed-term rental agreement starting on or after 29 March 2021, or
  • a periodic (month-to-month) rental agreement which you moved to on or after 29 March 2021

All new rental laws apply to this agreement.

Rental agreement is:

  • a fixed-term rental agreement that started before 29 March 2021 or
  • a periodic (month-to-month) rental agreement which you moved to before 29 March 2021

Then nearly all new rental laws apply to the agreement.

The laws that do not apply to existing agreements include laws relating to:

  • disclosure requirements, invalid or prohibited terms, and discrimination in rental agreements
  • rent payments, restrictions on rent in advance and rent increases, and rent receipts
  • rental minimum standards
  • condition reports.

New penalties and powers for breaches

Civil pecuniary penalties have been introduced for specific breaches of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, together with a public warning power for the Minister and Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria and other new powers to ensure compliance with key obligations.

Rental non-compliance register

 Rental providers and their agents will be listed on an online register if:

  • VCAT finds they have failed to meet certain obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, or
  • rental provider’s name
  • business name and address of the rental provider’s agent (if they have an agent)
  • address of the rented premises.
  • CAV did not take steps to notify them before making the listing they are convicted of an offence under the RTA.

The register is a publicly available record managed by Consumer Affairs Victoria. The register will be available on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website from 29 March 2021.

 To help renters find out more about their rental provider or agent, they can search for the following information listed on the register:

A listing will be removed after three years.

Is it possible for a rental provider or agent to prevent, remove or change their listing on the register?

This is possible in some circumstances:

  • In deciding that the rental provider or agent operated unlawfully, VCAT may also decide that it would be unfair to make a listing. It can order Consumer Affairs Victoria to not list the rental provider or agent on the register.
  • Rental providers and agents can apply to VCAT to prevent, remove or change a listing on the basis that:
  • Listing has been on the register more than 3 years, or listing information is incorrect

 Prohibited term means a term referred to in sections:

 

26A  (1) (a):  a prescribed prohibited term for a residential rental agreement for a fixed term of
       more than 5 years

27B: (1) A residential rental agreement must not include any of the following terms:
                (a) a term that requires the renter to take out any form of insurance
                (b) a term that exempts the residential rental provider from liability for an act of:
                        (i) the residential rental provider or that person’s agent; or
                        (ii) a person acting on behalf of the residential rental provider or that person’s agent;
                (c) a term that provides that if the renter contravenes the residential rental agreement, the rent is liable to pay:
                        (i) all or part of the remaining rent under the residential rental agreement; or
                        (ii) increased rent; or
                        (iii) a penalty; or
                        (iv) liquidated damages;
                (d) a term that requires all or part of the rented premises to be professionally cleaned at the end of the tenancy, unless that term is contained in the standard form;
                (e) a term that requires the renter to pay the cost of having all or part of the rented premises professionally cleaned at the end of the tenancy, unless that term is contained in the standard form;
                (f) a term that provides that, if the renter does not contravene the residential rental agreement
                        (i) the rent is reduced; or
                        (ii) the rent may be reduced; or
                        (iii) the renter is to be paid a rebate or other benefit; or
                        (v) the renter may be paid a rebate or other benefit;
                (g) any other prescribed prohibited term
        (2) A term in a written residential rental agreement or any other agreement must not include a term that requires a party to a written residential rental agreement to bear any fees, costs or charges incurred by the other party in connection with preparation of the residential rental agreement.

Note: Section 27 provides that terms which must not be includes in a residential rental agreement are invalid.

Minimum standards

Locks
(1) All external entry doors to the rented premises which 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—
        (a) is operated by a key from the outside; and 
        (b) may be unlocked from the inside with or without a key. 

(2) Subclause (1) does not apply—
        (a) to a public lobby door that opens to common property; or
        (b) if the rented premises is a registered place and a request for a permit to alter  the relevant features of the premises to comply with this standard has been refused in accordance with Part 5 of the Heritage Act 2017.

Vermin proof bins

A rubbish bin and a recycling bin are to be supplied for use by the renter of the rented premises which are:

        (a) provided by the local council; or
        (b) vermin proof and compatible with local council collection. 

Toilets

The rented premises are to contain a toilet that is—
        (a) in good working order, connected to— 
                (i) a reticulated sewerage system; or
                (ii) a wastewater treatment system permitted under the Code of practice – onsite wastewater management, published under the Environment Protection Act 1970; or 
                (iii) any other system approved by the local council; and
        (b) either in—
                (i) a room that is intended to be used as a toilet area, whether as a separate toilet or bathroom or combined bathroom and laundry; or
                (ii) a separate enclosed structure that is intended to be used as a toilet area.

Bathroom facilities

In relation to bathroom facilities, the following amenities are to be provided in the rented premises—

        (a) a bathroom connected to a reasonable supply of hot and cold water that contains a washbasin and a shower or bath; 
        (b) if a shower is present—
                (i) a shower head with a 3 star rating in the rating system referred to in regulation 23(1)(a); or
                (ii) a shower head with a one or 2 star rating if a shower head with a 3 star rating—
(A) cannot be installed; or
(B) if installed, will not operate effectively due to the age, nature or structure of the plumbing of the premises.

Kitchen facilities

(1) In relation to kitchen facilities, the following amenities are to be provided in the rented premises—  
        (a) a dedicated area which is intended to be used for cooking and food preparation; 
        (b) a sink in good working order that is connected to a reasonable supply of hot and cold water; 
        (c) a cooktop in good working order that has 2 or more burners.  

(2) Subclause (1) does not apply if the rented premises is a registered place and a request for a permit to alter the relevant features of the premises to comply with this standard has been refused in accordance with Part 5 of the Heritage Act 2017.

(3) Any oven at the rented premises must be in good working order.

Laundry facilities

Any laundry facilities present in the rented premises must be connected to a reasonable supply of hot and cold water. 

Structural soundness

The rented premises are to be structurally sound and weatherproof. 

Mould and dampness

Each room in the rented premises must be free from mould and damp caused by or related to the building structure.  

Electrical safety

On and from 29 March 2023, in relation to electrical safety, all power outlets and lighting circuits in the rented premises are to be connected to—
        (a) a switchboard-type Circuit Breaker that complies with AS/NZS 3000, "Electrical Installations", as published from time to              time; and
        (b) a switchboard-type Residual Current Device that complies with—
                (i) AS/NZS 3190, "Approval and test specification—Residual current devices (current operated earth-leakage devices)", as published from time to time; or
                (ii) AS/NZS 61008.1, "Residual current operated circuit-breakers without integral overcurrent protection for household and similar uses (RCBOs): Part 1: General rules", as published from time to time; or
                (iii) AS/NZS 61009.1, "Residual current operated circuit-breakers with integral overcurrent protection for household and similar uses (RCCBs) Part 1: General rules", as published from time to time.

Window coverings

On and from 29 March 2022, each window in a room at the rented premises that is likely to be used as a bedroom or as a living area is to be fitted with a curtain or blind that can be opened or closed by the renter to—

        (a) reasonably block light; and
        (b) provide reasonable privacy to the renter.

Windows 
(1) All external windows in the rented premises that are capable of opening must be able to be set in a closed or open position.
(2) All external windows in the rented premises which are capable of opening must have a functioning latch to secure the windows against external entry. 
Note
A window lock or bolt will meet the minimum standard referred to in subclause (2).

Lighting

(1) The interior rooms, corridors and hallways of the rented premises are to have access to light, whether natural or artificial, which provides a level of illuminance to the function or use of those rooms.

(2) Each habitable room of the rented premises is to have access to—
        (a) natural light, including borrowed light from an adjoining room, during daylight hours, which provides a level of illuminance appropriate to the function or use of the room; and
        (b) artificial light during non-daylight hours which provides a level of illuminance appropriate to the function or use of the room.

(2) Subclauses (1) and (2) do not apply if the rented premises is a registered place and a request for a permit to alter the relevant features of the premises to comply with the standard has been refused in accordance with Part 5 of the Heritage Act 2017.

Ventilation

(1) If the rented premises is a Class 1 building, each habitable room, bathroom, shower room, toilet and laundry must have ventilation satisfying Performance Requirement P2.4.5 of the BCA Volume Two, or the Acceptable Construction Practice in Part 3.8.5 of the BCA Volume Two. 

(2) If the rented premises is within a Class 2 building, each habitable room, bathroom, shower room, toilet and laundry must have ventilation satisfying Performance Requirements FP4.3, FP4.4 and FP4.5 of the BCA Volume One, or the Deemed to-Satisfy Provisions requirements in F4.5, F4.6 and F4.7 of the BCA Volume One.

Heating
(1) On and from 29 March 2021 until 28 March 2023, in relation to heating in a Class 1 building—
        (a) a fixed heater in good working order is to be in the main living area of the rented premises; or
        (b) if a fixed heater has not been installed in the main living area of the rented premises on or by 29 March 2021, an energy efficient fixed heater in good working order is to be installed in the main living area of the rented premises.