We heard on the grapevine that the powers that be have made some alterations to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. Chances are, you saw “Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment Act 2016” and fell asleep by the word “Amendment”. Fear not! The Perspective team has deciphered the at times convoluted legal jargon and compiled a straightforward summary of the changes that could affect you.
“But that would never happen to me!” is often our reaction when we see a news report of a devastating house fire somewhere. The reality is, it takes only the smallest electrical or gas fault to cause a fire, and without proper precautions, something as simple as a fridge short-circuiting can incinerate our whole livelihood in a matter of hours.
The new amendments to legislation enforce all leased residential properties to have smoke alarms installed in accordance with the Building Code.
- Act now so you don’t miss the deadline. All currently leased residential premises should have smoke alarms installed by the end of 12 months after the amendments commence.
- Yearly compliance checks are also necessary and are the responsibility of the landlord.
- It is your responsibility as a tenant to change the battery in the smoke alarm when necessary.
Bonds & Condition Reports
Bonds. They are a source of endless dispute amongst the dodgier landlord/tenant transactions out there, and the recent amendments to legislation are here to change all that.
- You must give the tenant an application for payment of the bond within 3 working days after the termination of the tenancy, or 10 working days if there is a claim
- If you wish to make a deduction from the bond, you must include the reason for the deduction on the appropriate form.
- Make sure you return the keys! If you don’t, the lessor can deduct the cost of obtaining new keys and resecuring the property from the bond.
Condition Reports, as any property manager worth their salt will tell you, form an absolutely essential part of a rental contract. Now, a tenancy will require a full condition report at both the start and the end of the lease period. These reports are to be completed jointly by the tenant and lessor, and a reasonable opportunity must be given to both parties to attend when the report is completed and signed.
Family Violence Amendments
A huge social issue facing our world is the prevalence of domestic violence. The changes to the current Tenancies Act aim to lighten the burden for those suffering from acts of domestic violence by facilitating leaving dangerous situations.
- You can apply as a protected person to change tenancy arrangements if you’re in danger;
- You can cancel a lease if you are living on the premises with the alleged offender; and
- You can take practical measures to secure the property by changing the locks at your own expense.
Each of the following is a party to a proceeding on the application: the protected person (victim), the lessor, the respondent to the order (the alleged offender) and any other existing tenants.
If a tenant leaves any possessions in the property after termination of the lease, they become the property of the owner. New changes to legislation make it clear that the Uncollected Goods Act 1995 applies to the storage and disposal of these possessions.
- For personal effects (other than a personal document), your method of disposal and time depends on what the item is.
- For personal documents, you must either return them to the issuing authority or dispose of them in any other lawful way you think is appropriate (this can’t result in personal information becoming publicly available).
- To make sure that your personal information is not leaked, it is easiest to stick to the final inspection guide, and leave the property in the required state.
‘Break Lease’ Term
Our fates are often left to the whim of the world. Circumstances change, opportunities come and go and we are ultimately at the mercy of the craziness that surrounds us. The last thing we need when going through a change is a hefty fee to break a lease on our current tenancy when a situation evolves beyond our control.
Landlords and Tenants:
- A new optional ‘break lease’ term has been set up, which a lessor and tenant may agree to include in the residential tenancy agreement.
- This term will specify the amount that the tenant must pay if they terminate a fixed term lease early, and the amount varies depending on the length of the tenancy and how much time is remaining on the lease.
- The ‘break lease’ term doesn’t apply if the termination of the lease is for a reason permitted under the Act or the agreement (e.g. Posting Clause – see below).
If a landlord reasonably believes that their leased residential premises have been abandoned, they are permitted to access the premises under the following conditions:
- Before entering the premises, you must take all reasonable steps to contact the tenant.
- You may only enter the premises at a reasonable time – this means you must not enter the premises on a Sunday, a public holiday, before 8am or after 6pm.
Commonplace in Canberra is the constant shuffling and moving around of those working in the Public Service, Defence or in other roles in government via new postings. These postings are disruptive enough for the tenant, but even more so for their landlord, who currently has only 4 weeks to readvertise the property and find a new tenant.
- If you are lined up for a new posting, make sure you give your landlord 8 weeks’ notice, compared to the previously required 4 weeks.
- You will need to provide evidence confirming details of the posting in your 8-week notice to the landlord.
Owners of residential premises without an energy efficiency rating will need to disclose this fact when advertising the property for lease.
So it turns out the Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment Act 2016 (we’ve gotta think of a new name for that) is not as confusing as once thought after all. Landlords and tenants alike, take note – if there’s one thing worse than the Game of Thrones off-season, it’s finding yourself in hot water over tenancy legislation!
If you’re still unsure about some of the amendments, your Property Manager is here to help! It’s their job to be all over legislation changes like these, so if you want clarification around timing or simply a face-to-face to discuss a change, you know what to do.