"The Cook Government has introduced a Bill to Parliament regarding the planned reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act announced in May."
The Cook Government has introduced a Bill to Parliament regarding the planned reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act announced in May.
A Bill is a draft of a proposed law and goes through several stages before being passed by Parliament. The proposed reforms have not come into effect, and it is still business as usual under the existing regime for property managers, tenants and investment property owners.
The reforms outlined in the Bill are what we have expected and have previously communicated. There are many details, such as those regarding modifications, that still have to be determined in Regulations and REIWA continues to engage with the Government on these matters to advocate for a practical approach.
Once approved, the various reforms will come into effect in stages. This is expected to begin early-mid 2024. Those changes that are affected by Regulations are likely to take longer to come into effect.
Briefly, the Bill covers:
As stated previously, there has been no change to No Grounds Terminations. This was a key part of REIWA’s advocacy platform and WA remains the only state to retain no grounds terminations after a review of residential tenancy legislation.
When it comes to pets, the Bill includes new provisions to allow tenants to keep a pet at the premises with the consent of the owner and will set out the circumstances where the owner may withhold consent and impose conditions on consent.
It will also outline the process by which a tenant can seek approval for a pet and resolution of disputes by the Commissioner for Consumer Protection.
Pet bonds can currently only be used for fumigation and REIWA advocated for the pet bond to be expanded to cover damage or cleaning required due to having a pet at the premises. This is included in the Bill. The Bill also makes clear that tenants have responsibility for pets, including nuisance and damage, and that damage caused by a pet is not fair wear and tear.
In relation to modifications to rental properties, the Bill sets out provisions relating to a tenant’s right to make various types of modifications to the premises, consent of the owner, conditions that may be imposed and applications to the Commissioner.
The tenant can make minor modifications to the premises, following a process by which the owner can provide consent, refuse under certain circumstances, or apply to the Commissioner to refuse. Conditions may be imposed on the making of minor modifications.
What is considered a minor modification has not been determined and will be in the coming Regulations. REIWA has already been engaging with Government on this subject and will continue to do so.
For major modifications (anything other than a minor modification, furniture safety modification or a modification to prevent a person from entering the premises), there are several options. A residential tenancy agreement may provide that a tenant:
One of REIWA’s key advocacy points regarding modifications was the need for the tenant to ‘make good’ at the end of the tenancy. The Bill provides that the tenant is responsible for the costs of making modifications, maintaining modifications, removing a modification and restoring premises.
Tenants will also have to ensure a modification has regard for the age and character of the property and complies with any law or scheme by-law.
There is a new section “Retaliatory action taken by lessor” that may cause some concern for owners. Tenants already have the opportunity to take action if they feel their lease has been terminated unfairly, but this new section now provides additional reassurance for tenants if they feel the owner has taken retaliatory action, such as increasing the rent or terminating the lease, in response to them exercising their rights as a tenant.
REIWA welcomes improvements to the dispute resolution process, but we do have some concerns about the implementation of this reform. We will be monitoring its progress and offering feedback. In our pre-Budget submission we have requested the dispute resolution process is appropriately funded.
We have reviewed the detail in the Amendment Bill and the explanatory memorandum and you can read a summary of the key issues here.
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