The Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (RTA) and regulations have recently been passed, giving people who rent greater protection under the law. The Department of Commerce, working with local community legal centres (as a tenancy network), recognised the need to update the RTA and have been advocating for these changes since 7 September 2011. These welcomed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 came into effect on 1 July 2013.
The Midland Information, Debt, Legal, and Advocacy Service (MIDLAS) Tenancy Advocates are positive that tenants will benefit from these changes to the law. Tenancy Advocates work with people who rent privately, as well as those who rent through public and community housing. Maintaining a tenancy is a high priority for everyone and Tenancy Advocates aim to prevent people from becoming homeless. MILDAS empowers individuals to gain a full understanding of their rights and responsibilities as renters.
So what effect will the changes have on people who rent? What are the new rights and responsibilities? Here is a brief summary of some of the changes.
Prescribed residential tenancy agreement
This makes it easier for renters to be able to understand the rental contract. The agreement is a standard templated form that cannot be changed, but there is an area (C) for additional information to be included. The Residential Tenancy Agreement form can be found on the Department of Commerce website.
Compulsory property condition reports
Property Condition Reports are now compulsory and two completed copies must be given to the tenant within seven days of the tenant moving into the premises. The tenant must return one amended, or agreed, copy to the lessor/agent within seven days after receiving it. The tenant should keep the second copy. The lessor/agent should complete a property condition report within 14 days after the termination of the tenancy agreement. The property condition form can be found on the Department of Commerce website.
All bonds (including pet bonds) must be lodged with the bond administrator NOT the agent/lessor. Additionally, at the end of the tenancy the bonds must be released within 14 days of vacating the property.
The agent/lessor must ensure that problems relating to essential services, such as water and electricity, are arranged within 24 hours. Non-urgent repairs need to have organised arrangements in place within 48 hours.
The agent/lessor must notify in writing any tenant who has been added to the national tenant database. A tenant can only be added to the list if their debt was more than their bond amount and/or the matter has been before a Magistrate. Additionally, the tenants name must be removed 3 years from the listing date.
Option fees have now been capped.
$50 Option fee for rental properties costing $0.00-$500.00 per week
$100 Option fee for rental properties costing $500.00 – $1,000 per week
To learn more about the changes to the RTA visit the Department of Commerce Website which includes a video showing information about the new tenancy laws.The MIDLAS tenancy service endeavours to assist individuals who are experiencing tenancy issues. The service provided includes legislation and policy information, referral and some court representation. The recent amendments made to the RTA improve the rights and safety of the tenant. If you need assistance in understanding the recent changes to the RTA, or dealing with any other tenancy matter, please contact MIDLAS.