From Rent Bidding to Pet-Friendly Rentals: What to Expect from WA's Rental Law Reforms
In Western Australia, the rental industry is currently undergoing transformations as the government endeavours to reform the Residential Tenancies Act. The objective of these changes is to enhance the protection offered to renters while providing owners with more explicit guidelines.
The Residential Tenancies Act, which has been in existence since 1987, is undergoing substantial modifications that will enhance tenant protections, clarify owner obligations, and streamline procedures for bond returns and resolving disputes.
On 26th May 2023, the WA Government made an announcement outlining its intentions to proceed with the tenancy reforms, and now let's delve into the specifics of these changes!
The proposed reforms include:
- Banning rent bidding, which is the practice of owners encouraging tenants to bid more than the advertised rent.
- Limiting rent increases to once a year.
- Allowing tenants to keep pets with owner approval.
- Streamlining the process of bond returns.
- Increasing funding for tenant advocacy and education services.
The reforms are expected to be introduced to Parliament later this year and come into effect in 2024.
Banning Rent Bidding
Rent bidding is a controversial practice that has been criticised for putting tenants at a disadvantage. Under rent bidding, owners can encourage tenants to bid more than the advertised rent, which can lead to higher rents for all tenants. The proposed ban on rent bidding is a welcome move that will help to level the playing field for tenants and make the rental market more fair.
Limiting Rent Increases to Once a Year
The current law allows owners to increase rent twice a year, which can be a financial burden for tenants. The proposed reform would limit rent increases to once a year, which would provide tenants with more certainty and stability.
Allowing Tenants to Keep Pets
Tenants with pets will now have more freedom to choose a rental property, however, owners will still be able to refuse pets, but they will need to have a valid reason and get approval from the Commissioner for Consumer Protection. This is a positive step for tenants who want to live with their pets.
Streamlining the Process of Bond Returns
The current process of bond returns can be slow and complicated. The proposed reform would streamline the process, making it easier and faster for tenants to get their bond back.
Renters can make certain minor modifications to their rental.
As a tenant, you have the opportunity to implement minor alterations to your rental unit. You are permitted to make these changes, unless the owner has a valid reason to deny your request. This gives you the flexibility to personalise your living space and make it a cosy and inviting environment, all while ensuring that you honour the owner’s investment.
An additional $4.5 million funding boost.
The Western Australian government has increased funding for the Tenant Advocacy and Education Services (TAES) program by $4.5 million annually. This is a 35% increase, bringing funding back to pre-2016 levels. As a result, advocates and legal centres will be able to provide more advice and support to tenants who need it. This will help tenants to understand their rights and responsibilities, resolve disputes with owners, and find and maintain a safe and affordable place to live.
But not everything is changing.
While some changes are being made to the rental laws, others will remain the same. For example, the notice periods for terminating a lease without grounds will stay the same at 60 days for periodic leases and 30 days for fixed leases.
Why are these changes being implemented?
The purpose behind these changes is to address the challenges faced by tenants in the current rental market and promote fairness for all parties involved. Additionally, the government aims to encourage more investors to participate in the market and ensure a consistent housing supply.
The objective of these reforms is to strike a balance between granting tenants additional rights and providing owners with certainty. By establishing a rental landscape that is fair, transparent, and supportive, the reforms to tenancy laws hold the potential for positive impacts on tenants and their families. Commerce Minister Sue Ellery has emphasised the advantages of these reforms, such as the elimination of rent bidding and a reduction in rent increases, which will offer financial relief to numerous families.
The Housing Minister has stressed the necessity for housing reforms, with a $2.6 billion investment in housing, lands, and measures to address homelessness. An additional $750 million will be allocated to stamp duty concessions, modifications to Keystart loans, and the expansion of the housing construction workforce.
Consumer Protection will engage in consultations with key stakeholders to refine the implementation details of the proposed changes.