Renter rights: What students need to know about changes to rental laws in Victoria

By ANGELICA SNOWDEN,
education editor

Changes to rental laws in Victoria passed by Parliament this month are “common sense” and “fair”, according to the state’s leading advocate in the community sector. 

Victorian Council of Social Services  CEO Emma King tweeted her approval of the new laws, saying they gave renters “support, protection and dignity”. 

Click on image to go to tweet.

For students, key changes include a limit on the amount of bond they are required to pay, rent may only increase once a year and students can easily make minor modifications to their homes – without seeking approval first.  

RMIT student Macklin Place lives in a share house and is hopeful that changes to rental laws will lead to more responsive property managers and better outcomes for students in the not-too-distant future.

“[Our property manager is] pretty friendly but they don’t always respond immediately,” he said.

“We needed to get in touch with them about changing the lease where they dodged our emails or weren’t responding to them so that was pretty frustrating.”

These changes will take effect progressively from next year, but in the meantime here’s what you need to know.

Rent

Previously, property owners could increase rent every six months. Now, they can only turn up the heat once a year.

They also must inform you of how much they plan to increase the rent by and how this increase was calculated.

Mr Place said his housemates and friends would also be happy to hear about changes to the Residential Tenancies Act.

“[Limiting rent increases] … that’s going to be good,” he said.  

“I’ve certainly had friends who have had rent increases multiple times a year across uni and that was a struggle for them having to move relatively regularly.” he said.

Renters Macklin Place, Ben and Will at their share-house in southeast Melbourne. Picture Angelica Snowden.

Bond

For a fixed term lease, you can’t be charged more than four weeks (28 days) of rent to pay for your bond – which is the security deposit for the property you have applied to live in.

In any other case, you can’t be charged more than two weeks, or 14 days.

Minor modifications

You will not need to get consent to make minor modifications to your house – for example, hanging a picture with a nail.

Other key changes

Other important changes include a minimum of 90 days’ notice to vacate a property under a 12-month lease, and no more “rent bidding”.

The new Bill has also introduced minimum rental standards. This means rental properties must be safe and secure when you set foot in the house. It must be maintained to stay this way too.  

It will be WAY easier to have a pet – while you still need to ask, consent is assumed if you have not heard otherwise within 14 days.

The landlord can apply to the tribunal to challenge your request, but they can’t unreasonably refuse you.

If someone is suffering from domestic violence, they will not lose their bond money if there is any loss (for example, unpaid rent due to moving without notice) that needs to be refunded to the property owner.

The State Government said the laws would be introduced progressively from next year, overseen by Consumer Affairs Victoria. There will be some further consultation “where necessary to develop guidelines about the new laws”.