This information is a guide and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.

While you rent

Among the changes in new laws that take effect after March 28, 2021 are that renters can make some modifications to their homes and fixing broken air conditioners and smoke detectors are treated as urgent repairs.

How you pay your rent

The agent or rental provider (landlord) must give you an option to pay your rent in a way that will not result in you being charged any extra costs.  They must also give you the option to pay your rent by Centrepay or electronic funds transfer. If the method they would like used charges you fees, they must tell you in advance. However, your do not have to agree to this.

Rent increases

For new agreements since 19 June 2019, rent increases are limited to once every 12 months. Previously increases were allowed every 6 months. Agreements that have been periodic prior to 19 June 2019 may continue to have 6 month increases.

After 28 March 2021, in new lease agreements any rent increase notices must specify the method by which the increase has been calculated.

If your lease allows a rent increase during its fixed term, it must specify how this will be calculated, or if a fixed amount, the increase must not be greater than the amount set out in the lease.

Modifications to your home

You will be allowed to make some changes or modifications to the rental property. Some you can make without the rental provider’s consent but others need their approval. The consent cannot be unreasonably refused. There are additional limitations if the property has heritage protections so ensure you seek advice.

If the rental provider does not consent, you can go to the Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal (VCAT).

Importantly, this only allows for consent for modifications that are not permanent. Renters are responsible for restoring the rental property to its original condition, save for fair wear and tear. You do not have to restore it if you and your rental provider agree that the modifications can remain once you leave.

No consent is needed to install:

  • Picture hooks or screws for wall mounts, shelves or brackets in walls, provided the devices do not penetrate walls that are exposed brick or concrete
  • In-wall anchoring devices, provided the walls are not exposed brick or concrete
  • LED light globes, provided they do not need changed light fittings
  • Water-efficient shower head, if you keep the original
  • Blind or cord anchors
  • Wireless doorbell
  • Security light, alarm system or security camera that can easily be removed, is not hard wired and does not impact on the privacy of neighbours
  • Replacement curtains, provided you keep the old ones
  • Adhesive child-safety locks on doors or drawers
  • Pressure-mounted child-safety gates
  • Lock on letterbox
  • Non-permanent window film for privacy or insulation

Consent is needed to install:

  • Picture hooks or screws for wall mounts, shelves or brackets or in wall anchoring devices if the walls are exposed brick or concrete
  • Hardware-mounted child-safety gates if the walls are exposed brick or concrete
  • Draught-proofing in homes, provided there are no unflued gas heaters
  • A security system by a qualified installer, provided you keep the invoice, and the privacy of your neighbours is not impacted
  • A secure letterbox
  • Flywire on doors or windows
  • Paint
  • Changes to secure external gates, provided you don’t live in a multi-unit dwelling
  • Herb or vegetable garden

Disability modifications

A rental provider cannot unreasonably refuse reasonable modifications needed by the renter, under section 55 of the Equal Opportunity Act, that have been prescribed by an occupational therapist or a health practitioner.

Unreasonable refusal of modifications

A rental provider cannot unreasonably refuse to give consent for modifications on a wide range of grounds. These include that the modifications:

  • Do not penetrate or permanently modify surfaces, or fixtures or the structure
  • Are needed for health and safety
  • Are reasonable security measures or needed to access telecommunication
  • Are needed for the safety of a victim survivor of family violence against a perpetrator who is also a renter at the property
  • Are for increased thermal comfort
  • Are to reduce energy or water usage costs

A rental provider can argue the refusal was not unreasonable in a range of circumstances. These include that they have given the renter a valid notice to vacate advising of change of possession or use of the premises, or it would not be reasonably practical to remedy the modifications.

If the rental provider and renter cannot reach an agreement, disputes can go to VCAT.

Urgent repairs

New items have been added to the list of urgent repairs. These are air conditioning repairs not complying with the new minimum standards (if the renter moved in after March 28, 2021), mould and damp repairs, pest infestation, and failure or breakdown of safety devices, such as a smoke detector.

Renters must give written notice of any damage or repair issue in writing as soon as practicable. This applies to all repairs, and not only urgent ones.

If the renter gets an urgent repair done themselves after notifying the rental provider, they should use a qualified tradesperson and can then require reimbursement of up to $2500 (including GST) for the repair.

The rental provider must repay the repair amount to the renter within 7 days after the renter gave written notice of the completed repairs and their cost. If this does not occur, the renter can apply to VCAT, which will list it for hearing within 5 days.

Who can do repairs

Repairs must be done by a qualified person.

It is now optional for renters to seek a report from Consumer Affairs Victoria in relation to non-urgent repairs. Renters can now apply to VCAT to seek an order for repairs 14 days after giving written notice to the rental provider or agent about the repairs needed.

VCAT is able to order that rent is paid into a rent special account, and not to the rental provider if it is satisfied that the rental provider is not complying with their duty to keep the property in good repair.

Keeping your home safe

A list of safety devices that cannot be tampered with is specified in the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. Also, new safety duties have been assigned to the rental provider and renter.

The rental provider must ensure that:

  • Gas and electricity safety checks included in the rental agreement are carried out every 2 years, keep records of these and give the renter a copy of the latest check if the renter has requested this in writing
  • Smoke alarms are correctly installed and working, batteries are working and the alarms are tested every 12 months. If a smoke alarm is not working, it must be repaired immediately. At the start of the agreement, the rental provider must give the renter written information about not interfering with the smoke alarm
  • The barrier for any swimming pool on the property is installed and in working order, and fixed as an urgent repair if not
  • If the property is in a bushfire-prone area and requires a water tank for safety, the tank and its connections are in good repair. The tank must be full and clean at the start of the rental agreement

The renter must:

  • Give the rental provider written notice immediately if a smoke alarm is not working or a swimming pool barrier is not in working order
  • Not erect a temporary swimming pool without the permission of the rental provider, and must get necessary approvals before putting up the pool

Compensation for open for inspections

When a property is up for sale new provisions allow entry by a rental provider or agent for open-house inspections for prospective buyers, with at least 48 hours’ notice. Before they can do this, they must give the renter a new ‘notice of intention to sell’ 14 days before the entry is proposed and have made reasonable efforts to agree on the day and times for entry.

After this, the renter is entitled to $30 or a half day’s rent, whichever is greater, in compensation for each sales inspection. This means if the rent is less than $1,820 a month the renter would receive $30, but otherwise would receive an amount equivalent to half a day’s rent. Unless the renter agrees, these inspections are limited to twice a week and for no longer than one hour each.

Other inspections and entries

Inspections to show prospective renters the property can take place in the last 21 days before the termination date in the renter’s notice of intention to vacate or rental provider’s notice to vacate.

Rental providers and agents can now also enter to take photos and videos for advertising after giving the renter 7 days’ notice. The renter can object in writing to images or videos that show anything valuable, identify them or give sensitive personal information or show valuable items and those things cannot be reasonably removed or concealed or might identify someone at risk of family or personal violence. If the renter has objected, they can look at the images before they are used and refuse consent if they show any of these things.

Family violence and leases

A person who is a victim survivor of family violence, whether or not the victim survivor is on a lease, can apply to VCAT to either remove a perpetrator of family violence from the lease or to remove themselves from the lease if they wish.

An intervention order is not required. The victim survivor can apply to VCAT without the consent of the rental provider. Obtaining intervention orders should still be considered for safety reasons.

VCAT must hear the application urgently, within 3 days of it being made. It can order the end of lease entirely, or require the rental provider to enter a new lease with the person affected by the family violence.

VCAT must consider the hardship the victim survivor and any dependent children might suffer and whether this hardship would be greater than the rental provider’s hardship, as well as considering if the renter can fulfil their duties under the lease.

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