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Besides Terminations and Tenancy Agreements, What Other Changes are Included in the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act?
The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 recently passed into law. Crockers has summarised the changes in a series of articles. This, our third article, looks into other changes that come in under the reforms.
Changes came into effect six months after the date of Royal Assent, which was achieved on 11 August 2020.
Consent for Tenant’s Fixtures
Previously, tenants had to get their landlord’s consent before making any alterations to their rental property, however minor. Landlords did not have to provide their consent to these requests.
Under the new law, the landlord must not unreasonably withhold consent for a fixture, renovation, alteration, or addition. If the landlord consents to the request, they can impose reasonable conditions for minor and major changes. An example of a reasonable request could be a landlord asking that shelving is installed in a slightly different position to avoid disrupting existing wiring.
If the tenant makes a written request for consent, the landlord must respond in writing within 21 days after receiving the request. Failure to comply is an unlawful act. In the response, the landlord must indicate whether or not the landlord considers the change to be a minor.
If the change is more than minor, the landlord can only withhold consent if the request is unreasonable. In this case, the landlord may take longer than 21 days to consider the request if they notify the tenant within 21 days of the date the tenant made the request. They must still respond in a reasonable amount of time. Failure to comply is an unlawful act.
If the landlord doesn’t consent to the request, the tenant can’t make the change, even if the change is minor or the landlord is being unreasonable. The tenant can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal if they would like to challenge the landlord’s decision.
If a tenant wants to make a change to their rental property, then they will have to pay for it. The tenant will also be liable for the cost of any remedial work required to return the property to "substantially the same" condition at the end of the tenancy.
The maximum penalty which can be ordered for failing to comply with these requirements is $1,500.
Installing a Minor Change
Previously, tenants had to get their landlord’s consent for installing a minor change and landlords did not have to provide their consent to these requests.
Under the new law, when a tenant requests a change that is minor, the landlord must give permission. The landlord can impose reasonable conditions around how that minor change is carried out. Tenants must remove the minor changes and remediate the property when the tenancy ends.
Examples of minor changes could include accessibility changes for disabled people, the child-proofing of properties and the installation of window coverings.
A landlord commits an unlawful act if the landlord withholds consent for a minor change.
Penalty - $1,500.
Previously, landlords had no obligations relating to fibre broadband. The Ultra-Fast Fibre Broadband Scheme offered fibre installation for free but relied on mutual agreement.
Under the new law, tenants can request to install fibre broadband and landlords must facilitate installation if this can be done at no cost to the landlord.
The Ultra-Fast Fibre Broadband Scheme offers fibre installation for free.
Landlords can decline a request for fibre installation where:
- It will materially compromise the building’s weathertightness or character.
- It will compromise the building’s structural integrity.
- It will breach an obligation relevant to the premises.
- The landlord is going to carry out extensive renovations.
Tenancy Tribunal Jurisdiction
Previously, the Tenancy Tribunal could hear cases and make awards up to $50,000, after which the parties would need to go to the District Court.
Under the new law, the Tenancy Tribunal can hear cases and make awards up to $100,000.
The Regulator (MBIE) can take a single application to the Tribunal to cover multiple breaches across multiple properties.
Civil pecuniary penalties and higher infringement fees are available to the Regulator in respect of landlords with six or more tenancies, including boarding house landlords.
Privacy and Access to Justice
Previously, name suppression provisions were unclear.
Under the new law, the Tribunal, on the application of any party or on its own initiative, can order that names and identifying details of any party be suppressed..
Enforcement of the RTA
Previously, the Regulator (MBIE) entered into voluntary agreements for parties to comply with RTA obligations. There was no ability for the Regulator to issue improvement notices.
Under the new law, there is a new infringement offence regime for straightforward breaches of the RTA. Existing penalties have been increased between 50 and 80 percent.
The Regulator can enter into Enforceable Undertakings – voluntary agreements for parties to comply with RTA obligations, with a penalty if not complied with. The Regulator can also issue Improvement Notices to correct a breach of the RTA. Improvement Notices carry a penalty if not complied with.
Terminations, Tenancy Agreements and More
For further information, see our articles on changes to terminations and tenancy agreements, or access the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020.
Contact the helpful Crockers Property Management team here.