BY ANTONIA MERCORELLA – CEO, REAL ESTATE INSTITUTE OF QUEENSLAND
The Queensland Government has recently introduced its Rental Reform Bill; the Housing Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 (“the Bill”) into Parliament.
The Government committed to rental reforms several years ago and the Bill follows an earlier proposal that was put out for consultation in 2019. Following feedback from various stakeholders, the Government has now developed revised rental reform proposals that seek to better balance the rights and obligations of both renters and owners. Although this Bill remains focussed on tenant protections and imposes greater obligations on owners, we believe these reforms represent a fairer and more balanced approach to what was previously proposed in 2019.
One of the central tenant protections contained in the Bill relates to domestic and family violence (“DFV”). Temporary DFV provisions that were introduced during COVID-19 will become permanent if the Bill is passed. Essentially, these protections enable a tenant experiencing domestic and family violence to bypass the usual requirements and financial obligations associated with lease terminations.
The Bill also sets out standards for safety, security and functionality in rental properties. Examples include ensuring accessible windows and doors have functioning latches, windows have curtains or blinds for privacy, kitchen and laundry facilities are in good repair and properties are weatherproof and structurally sound. The proposed minimum housing standards are not due to commence until September 2023 to enable owners time to budget and make the necessary modifications by the required deadline.
Pets have also been central to the tenancy reform debate. Under the Bill, owners may only refuse pets if they have reasonable grounds. These grounds may include if the property is unsuitable, if keeping the pet would breach laws or by-laws, or if the pet is likely to cause more damage than the cost of the bond. The proposed laws also allow an owner to impose special conditions when approving a pet. Examples may include requiring the pet to remain outside or in a particular area of the property. In addition, pet-related damage is to be excluded from fair wear and tear.
Finally, the Bill introduces greater clarity on how a tenancy ends and establishes new grounds for terminations. Owners will have the right to issue tenants with a notice to leave (to end a tenancy) on various new grounds, including if the fixed term agreement is due to end, a major renovation of the property is to take place or the owner or their immediate family wish to move in. In addition, owners will also be able to seek an order from the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal to terminate the tenancy for a significant or serious breach of the lease by a tenant.
Under the Bill, tenants can also seek to terminate a tenancy agreement if the property does not comply with minimum standards, if the owner has provided false or misleading information about the property, or a co-tenant has died.
The REIQ recognises that tenancy laws in Queensland must be modernised to keep pace with our changing rental landscape. In Queensland, the majority of rental housing is provided by private investors. It’s therefore important that owners retain the right to make key decisions about their asset and its protection to ensure that we can maintain a sustainable rental housing market.
Similarly, it’s fundamentally important that legislative protections are implemented to ensure that rental properties are safe and secure and that tenants have certainty about their rights when living in a rental property. In circumstances where 36 per cent of our community rent their homes, the right regulatory framework is critically important to provide security and certainty to both tenants and owners.
To view the Bill, please go to the Queensland Parliament website. To have your say on the proposed changes, email [email protected] by 12 noon on Tuesday 13 July 2021.