Wednesday 25 September 2018
Hansard of the Legislative Council
Rental Tenancy Reforms
Mr FINCH question to LEADER of the GOVERNMENT in the LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, Mrs HISCUTT
(1) Given that Victoria last week passed legislation to give Victorian renters the strongest protection in Australia, what plans does the Tasmanian Government have to introduce rental reforms?
(2) Among numerous reforms, Victorian renters will have rent increases limited to one a year and tenants must be informed of their right to dispute an increase. Will the Tasmanian Government be looking at similar provisions?
(1) Many of the matters in the Victorian legislation are already covered under the Tasmanian legislation, the Residential Tenancy Act 1997; for example, the minimum standards to rental properties that have been adopted by Victoria as part of their reforms replicate standards established in Tasmanian legislation in 2013 and again in 2015. Tasmania was the first jurisdiction to introduce minimum standards for residential tenancy in a clear and accessible form, which have been used as a benchmark for other jurisdictions, including Victoria.
These amendments provide protection for victims of family violence by enabling a court to terminate a residential tenancy agreement without penalty when making a family violence order and enable payment of security deposits by instalments. It expands the organisations that can accept security deposits by instalments and sets out requirements for lodging them with the authority. It clarifies that any change to a social housing tenant's rent contribution is not classified as a rent increase, meaning when the tenant's circumstances change and therefore the amount the tenant can contribute increases, it is not considered to be a rent increase.
It gives effect to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and implements NDIS accommodation requirements, enabling participants housed at single premises to have exclusive access to bedrooms and shared access to common areas such as kitchens and living areas.
Further review of the act is anticipated; however, the extent and details of amendments are not yet known. This work is currently being progressed for intended introduction in 2019.
(2) The matter of limiting rent increases to only once in a 12-month period is already provided for under current Tasmanian legislative requirements. The act provides that rent increases cannot occur within 12 months of the lease being signed, extended or renewed or since its last increase. Tenants must be notified of any rent increases by written notice of the increase, which must be allowed for in the lease agreement and give the tenant at least 60 days notice of the date the increase rent starts, including for social housing.
Further, if a tenant believes their rent increase is unreasonable in either social or private housing, they can apply to the Residential Tenancy Commissioner for a review of the increase. The act allows the commissioner to consider the general level of rents for comparable properties in the same or similar locality, and other relevant matters such as the amount of the increase, any improvements or relevant issues of condition of the property and previous increase history. If the commissioner issues an order concerning the rent increase, the order can support, deny or vary the increase. Orders may be appealed by either party to the Magistrates Court.