Rental reform a change for all parties

NEW rental laws have come into play this week to better guard the rights of tenants and landlords.
They are changes that a local real estate agent believes could make the leasing landscape trickier for private landlords to navigate rental agreements.

Rob Bell, Business Development Manager at Morris Brothers Real Estate, said the rental market in Wangaratta is booming with his agency currently at a zero per cent vacancy.
Mr Bell cited which has 22 listings for rent in the whole of Wangaratta when usually this is the figure for each agency within this city.

He said the aim of the reform is to improve the condition of rental properties, however, only a small amount of rental property providers don't maintain their properties to a reasonable standard.
"These are more your private rental property providers who don't maintain this standard and these reforms are going to stamp this out," he said.
"We're going to be able to help guide property providers through all these legislation changes and it will ensure that electrical, gas safety checks and insurance are all in line with standards.
"It will be a challenge for private rental providers to navigate their way through this reform."
It's always been a balancing act when it comes to real estate agents being a property manager but they are the professionals who are out for the best outcomes of both their clients - renters and landlords.

Mr Bell said their role has always been to ensure fair and balanced outcomes with accordance to the residential tenancy laws and at the end of the day if a rental provider or renter is not coming to the table then it can play out in the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
He said there is no need to stress about rental reform because there are a series of steps in place to sort out any issues.

While the reform does bring some leniencies to renters, minor modifications will still need to be put in writing to the rental provider, however, the latter cannot reasonably refuse those minor modifications to the property.
"It might be painting a room a different colour if they want to or putting picture hooks up, as long as they return it to its former state or condition report status before departure from their lease agreement," he said.

"If any minor modifications are going to happen a rental provider can also ask for a top up on the bond to cover these alterations."
Urgent repair guidelines have changed and where before it was only heating on the list, now so too are air-conditioning and pest infestations.
"Before it was a grey area for issues like cockroach problems because for instance the tenant has been there for a while, or it could be the landlord's responsibility, but now it's black and white and it is the latter's role to attend to the problem."

The addition of pets has always been a barrier for tenants securing their ideal rental property but already in play is a provision for renters to have pets.
"Renters have to fill out an application and if the owners don't get back to them within a certain timeframe, they can have the pet without consent," he said.
Rental providers will also now have to disclose whether they think they might sell the property in the near future, or tell the tenant if a serious crime has taken place at the property.

The traditional 120-day notice period has been scrapped and property providers can still issue the 60-day notice prior the end of the lease.
In the past landlords would issue a notice for rental arrears and if they paid it, it would be made void and the tenant would stay.
Now if there are five times a tenant is behind on rent over 12-months and they are issued with a 14-day eviction notice, the tenant has to go.

Mr Bell has concerns for the people who need affordable housing under the rental reforms because if the condition of properties improves, the rents will go up.
At $250 a week people can probably get a unit but Mr Bell said securing a rental for less might be a real struggle in the future.
He envisages that rental availability will start to improve when parts of society such as international borders reopen and the economies return to a new normal.
"We like to think of ourselves as a family business, we've been here a long time and we've got a new office space on Wangaratta's Rowan Street," Mr Bell reflected.
"I've been brought on purely for this whole rental reform as a business development manager to help guide our clients and bring on new clients such as private rental providers to get through this."