Resources

If you’re in an urgent situation, or you have received a notice to vacate, email [email protected]


Changes to Residential Tenancies Act – from March 29th 2021 

Key changes from March 29th 2021

There are few changes or amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act, known as the Residential Tenancies Act Amendments (RTAA). 
These changes will come into effect from March 29th, 2021.
This list is not all of them, but the most common issues many of us renting will need to know about. You can find the full list of changes here 

Transitional Measures

“Transitional Regulations” are now in effect from March 29th to June 19th 2021
These transitional measures apply if anytime during March 28th 2020 to March 29th 2021, due to a COVID19 reason you:

  • were unable to pay rent 
  • have rental debt 
  • lodged a new lease agreement or rent reduction
  • were unable to reach an agreement in mediation or dispute settlement
  • were sent a Notice To Vacate

What’s been extended:

  • No breach of duty or term if COVID-19 reason
  • Notices To Vacate due to failure to pay rent from March 28th 2020 – March 29th 2021 are still invalid
  • You cannot be evicted with a Notice To Vacate
  • You won’t have to pay lease break fees and any rental debts (compensation) for breaking a lease. 
  • Landlords cannot apply for Warrants of Possession, even if an eviction at VCAT was granted (between 25 April 2020-March 29th 2021)
  • Still no blacklisting able to be made due to COVID19 reasons

Evictions 

From March 29th, Notices To Vacate are back on the table, however there are some changes.

Notices To Vacate

From March 29th 2021, to June 19th 2021, Notices To Vacate for failure to pay rent are invalid if any of the following applies to you: 

  • Have rental debt/arrears from anytime before April 1st 2021, 
  • Were affected by change of circumstances due to COVID19
  • You were unable to comply with rental obligations (such as paying rent)
  • You have gone through Mediation or Dispute Settlement with Consumer Affairs

What does it look like?

If you have just received an email, this is not a valid notice.
If you have received a formal notice, and the notice specifies anything regarding payment of rent under “Reasons” it is void.
It may have any numbers (ie. grounds) such as : Section 246, 91ZM, 142ZF, 206AU 498ZX(1)(a)

What can I do?

The Notice To Vacate is invalid, and you don’t have to move.

If you currently have a rent reduction agreement through Dispute Settlement, you can apply to VCAT to extend this agreement.

If you haven’t gone through Dispute Settlement and have a ‘dispute order’ (such as a new agreement) your landlord will have to apply to VCAT to attempt to evict.

Contact us for support [email protected] 

Can the sheriff or police still evict me? 

No. You cannot be forcibly evicted with a Notice To Vacate.

Rent Reduction Agreements

Extend your rent reduction Agreement 

From March 29th – June 19th 2021:

If you or your landlord/agent applied for dispute settlement through Consumer Affairs Victoria for a rent reduction or new lease agreement, and a resolution or ‘dispute order’ was achieved, you can apply to VCAT to amend, extend or cancel this dispute order. 

If you were involved in a dispute settlement that was unable to be resolved, you can apply to VCAT for dispute resolution.

Apply to VCAT: [email protected]
Email us for support: [email protected]

What’s changed from March 29th, 2021?

  • All Notices To Vacate without a specified reason are banned. 

New Reasons:

These two reasons have 14 day notice period: 

  1. Threats and intimidation:
    If you have explicitly threatened the landlord, their agent or an employee (ie. a plumber or worker who has been engaged by the landlord/agent)
     
  2. If you have kept a pet without consent of the landlord:
    If the landlord has taken you to VCAT to deny having a pet at your house, and you’re found to still have a pet.

Changed reasons: 

  • Ending the first fixed term lease
    If you are currently in your first ‘fixed term agreement’ ie. not a month-to-month lease, your landlord can give you a Notice To Vacate at the end of that fixed term agreement.

Notice times:
If you’ve lived there for less than 6 months: must be at least 60 days
If your tenancy is for over 6 months: at least 90 days

Your landlord cannot give you a Notice To Vacate this way if you have a tenancy that has renewed any kind of lease.

  • Non-payment of rent

    If you currently have a reduced rent lease agreement, your landlord cannot serve you a Notice To Vacate for non-payment of rent.

    If you have fallen behind on rent payment from March 29th 2021, your landlord can give you a Notice To Vacate after 14 days.
    The earliest date of this can only be from April 12th 2021.
    If you pay the total amount of owed rent within the following 14 days, the notice is of no effect.
    This can happen 4 times within a 12 month period.

At VCAT: A payment plan can be arranged, and the VCAT member may refer you to a financial counsellor.

On the 5th time this occurs, even if you pay the owing rent within 14 days, the landlord can still apply for termination and possession with a Notice To Vacate. When deciding whether to make a possession order, VCAT must consider whether eviction would be reasonable and proportionate and take into consideration the behaviour of the rental provider or their agent.

Rent Increases 

Take a look at the RAHU Guide to Rent Increases here.

From March 20, 2020 – March 29th 2021, any rent increases are banned.
From March 29th 2021, rent increases will be allowed again.
You have the right to 60 days notice from March 29th before it increases, and during this 60 days, you have a right to challenge it if you think it might be excessive.

What’s changed:

For all tenancies:

  • Your landlord must give you 60 days notice of the proposed increase
  • The proposed rent increase must be submitted to you via the standard form.
  • On this form, your landlord must include the method by which the rent increase was calculated. The rent increase cannot be greater than the amount calculated using this method. 
  • If you believe the increase to be excessive, you have a right to challenge it
  • You must challenge the increase within 30 days of receiving the form
  • You can find out if the increase is excessive by comparing it to the rental market and Consumer Price Index (CPI)
  • You can challenge the rent increase by ticking the box on the rent increase form, adding your contact number, and emailing this to [email protected]  

What counts as excessive?

As a union we stand against the right for housing to be dictated and dependent on market forces.
For us renters stuck in the private market, the legislation defines ‘excessive’ by the rental market and its supply and demand.

To make sure we can fight back against excessive increases after March, we’ve crunched the numbers.

Consumer Affairs Victoria states the measurements used to calculate this are the current Consumer Price Index (CPI) or the Statewide Rent Index (SRI)

The current Consumer Price Index (from 2021) is 0.9% (ABS January 2021)

Statewide Rent Index (SRI) for last quarter (Sep. 2020) decreased -3.6% (DHHS Rental Report 2020)

Due to the rental market significantly decreasing over 2020, 
If your landlord attempts to increase your rent by over 1% from what you’re currently paying, you may want to challenge it.

Download the form to challenge a rent increase here

My landlord/agent has sent me an email saying they are increasing the rent
This is not in the correct form, and is therefore not valid. Contact us for support: [email protected]

Further resources:

Consumer Affairs Victoria: Rent Increases

Download the form to challenge a rent increase here

Bond

Take a look at the RAHU Guide to Bond Claims here.
Take a look at the RAHU Guide to Tenancy Transfer here.

What’s changing?
From March 29th, 2021 as part of the Residential Tenancies Act Amendments (RTAA):

Faster bond repayments

Renters will now be able to apply to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA) at the end of the tenancy to have all or part of the bond released with or without the landlord’s consent.

Allow early release of bond

If the renter/s and landlord agree, the RTBA will pay out the bond within 14 days in full or in accordance with the agreed apportionment to renter and landlord.

If the landlord has not consented to the bond being paid out, the RTBA will notify the renter, who then has 14 days to notify the RTBA if they are disputing the claim. If not the bond will be automatically paid out.

This reform will mean that, in practice, renters will lodge their bond form and if the landlord does not dispute the bond within 14 days, the renter will be paid out by the RTBA.

Apportionment: a portion of the total bond

Renting direct from the landlord: 

If you’re renting directly from their landlord, you can take control of the return of bond by downloading a completed Bond Claim form, for you and your landlord to sign before forwarding it to the RTBA.

Note: It is an offence for a landlord to request or obtain a renter’s signature on a bond refund application form if the application does not specify the amount of bond to be refunded and the apportionment, if any, of the bond.

If the bond is to be paid in full to the renter do ensure the full amount of the bond is recorded in the ‘Tenant payment details’ section before it is signed.

If an amount of the bond is agreed to be paid to the landlord, then the Bond Claim form must be signed by the renter not earlier than 7 days before the termination date.

Renting through a Real Estate Agency

It is now mandatory for licensed estate agents to lodge, claim and transfer renters’ bonds electronically.

The agent and renters should agree on the division of the bond before the agent submits a bond claim.

You cannot be charged by the landlord or agent for this bond lodgement. 

How do I find out if my bond has been lodged? 

Your agent or landlord must submit your bond online through RTBA.
The RTBA will send you an email with a link to confirm this. If you provided a mobile number you will also receive a text from RTBAVIC ET. Click on the link and you will be directed to your secure transaction details.

If you have your bond number or Electronic Reference Number, you can look up your bond at rentalbonds.vic.gov.au 

What if the landlord wants to make a claim on the bond?

If the agent or landlord is making a claim on the bond then each renter will be sent both an email and a text message with a link to confirm details of the bond claim. If the renters do not respond to the link within seven days, all parties will receive a reminder and should they fail to respond within 14 days, the claim will be cancelled and all parties will be notified. 

The Landlord has 10 business days from the time either the renter vacates the property and returns the keys, (which may not necessarily be the termination date specified in the notice), or the landlord becomes aware that the renter has abandoned the rented premises. 

What are allowable Reasons for a bond claim?

if the landlord believes they suffered loss or damage on account of any one or more of the following; 

  • damage caused to the rented premises or common areas by the renter or their guest, other than fair wear and tear;
  • any act or omission of the renter or their guest, other than fair wear and tear, that occasioned the loss of goods belonging to the landlord;
  • failure by the renter to keep the premises in a reasonably clean condition, fair wear and tear excepted;
  • abandonment of the premises by the renter;
  • any liability of the landlord for charges payable by the renter that are or may be recoverable by the person to whom they are owed from the landlord, (excluding any costs and charges for the installation of a solar energy system under the Solar Homes Program);
  • an amount of rent that has accrued due and is unpaid.

What’s common but not law

My agent / landlord is expecting professional cleaning before I receive my bond back 

Often, tenancy agreements will contain clauses around steam cleaning or professional cleaning services. Renters are only required to leave the property in a “reasonably clean” condition.
The landlord or agent cannot request you to do more than the law states, even if it is in the tenancy agreement. For example, if the tenancy agreement states that the carpets must be steam cleaned when moving out, the renter can argue that it is invalid.

You can refer to your copy of the condition report you received at the start of your tenancy as a guide.
Your agent or landlord is responsible in providing you an up-to-date condition report upon signing a new lease.

What’s “fair wear and tear”? 

Basically, anything that is considered normal deterioration of the house from you living in it.
Examples of fair wear and tear include:
faded curtains or carpet, scuffed or faded polished floors from old age/repeated walking, old, chipped or cracked paint and loose hinges and handles. 

What’s “Depreciation”?

Every fixed item in a house has a depreciation value. Some examples of fixed items are the cupboards, bench tops or cabinets. 

You can calculate the annual depreciation of an asset by subtracting the salvage value from it’s purchase price and dividing it by it’s useful life (the number of years it is used).

As a rough guide, most fixed items over 10 years old have a depreciated value under $100

I haven’t received a bond reference number, what can I do?

Speak to your housemates and contact us at [email protected]

My agent / landlord is claiming part of my bond for damages, what can I do?

Landlords & agents often claim part or all of the bond for damages that can be included as fair wear & tear and often don’t account for depreciation.

Example: “Tim” and his partner are moving out of their house, and there is a stain on the bathroom cabinet. Tim has downloaded and completed the bond form from RTBA, but the landlord refuses to sign it. Five days after Tim moves out, Tim receives a notice from the RTBA that his landlord is claiming Tim’s total bond of $1,400 to replace the whole cabinet. The landlord has been leasing this property for over 10 years, and the bathroom cabinet has never been renovated or replaced.

Tim applies at VCAT for return of the bond, and equates the cabinet to be worth $50 after depreciation. The cost of repairing the stain could be fixed with a spot remover.

VCAT must consider fair wear and tear, and the depreciated value of the cabinet to make a decision whether any or all of the bond should be refunded to the landlord. 

VCAT decides that the stain on the cabinet is not fair wear and tear, nor able to be fixed with a spot remover, but considers the depreciated value of the cabinet to be $50.
VCAT orders for Tim to receive his total bond of $1,400 minus $50 apportionment to the landlord.

Further Resources

Residential Tenancies Bond Authority rentalbonds.vic.gov.au Freecall: 1300 137 164 

Consumer Affairs Victoria: Bond Guide for Tenants

Rent reductions

I can’t afford my rent, what can I do?

Firstly, remember you’re not alone.

Rent prices have been increasing for decades with no regulation, and now with unemployment at an all time high due to COVID19, millions of renters are struggling to meet their rent.

The good news is, in VIC until March 2021, you can negotiate to get a rent reduction if your circumstances have changed due to COVID19.

More info on how to do this can be found here.

Is it too late to ask my agent or landlord for a rent reduction?

No it’s not too late!

The current COVID19 Omnibus Legislation has been extended to 28th March 2021.

You have the right to request a reduction, and your agent is strongly advised to negotiate this with you.

*Remember to only request what you can afford – we recommend no more than 30% of your current gross income, and for any arrears (rental debt) to be waived.*

We recommend joining RAHU to have collective support through this process

You can find more info on how to negotiate a reduction here

When I asked for a rent reduction, my agent sent me financial hardship forms. Do I have to fill these out?

You’re not obligated to fill these out. Often these forms request excessive personal information, and often contain misleading information.

We recommend initiating mediation through Consumer Affairs Victoria

My agent has offered me a rent deferral, what does this mean?

A rent deferral is not a rent reduction, we don’t recommend accepting a rent deferral.

A deferral means you would have to pay back the remaining rent at a later date. This would leave a potentially huge debt on top of your standard rent that you may not be able to pay.

Negotiate for a rent reduction instead.

I have asked for a rent reduction, but it has taken months without a result. What can I do?

We recommend initiating mediation through Dispute Resolution if you can’t reach an agreement with your agent or landlord.

If you are struggling to meet your rent, delaying action may put you at further risk by not being able to meet your standard rent.

My real estate agent/landlord is ignoring my request for a rent reduction – what can I do?

Under COVID-19 Omnibus legislation landlords and real estate agents have been advised to negotiate with you in good faith. You can remind them of this in an email.

  1. Firstly, join RAHU. To address the power imbalance landlords and agents have over us, we need to keep supporting each other as renters throughout this process. We are stronger together
  2. Make sure that your request for a rent reduction is in writing. More information on the process here
  3. If they don’t respond within the week, you should initiate mediation through Consumer Affairs here
    You can notify them with a follow up email, stating: “Please be advised that if you are unwilling to agree to this negotiation, we will have no option but to seek conciliation through Consumer Affairs Victoria.”
  4. Check in with us for support through this process, at [email protected]

Homelessness & crisis support

I’m homeless. What do I do?

If you are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless and need help to find housing or support, contact a Victorian Housing Access Point. The Access Point you need to contact is based on your address or the main place you have been staying. Through the Access Point, you will speak to an Initial Assessment and Planning worker who will complete an assessment of your housing and support needs and assist you to address these needs. This may involve providing emergency accommodation and/or referring you to specialist homelessness services and other community services.

For more info & help contact us: [email protected]