A raft of new tenancy laws came into effect from October 1st and our factsheets have been updated to reflect this. Arguably of greatest benefit to tenants is the 42 day (6 week) notice period for an eviction at the end of a fixed term lease, up from a minimum of 14 days. This change was sought by the Tenants’ Union to reduce the likelihood of homelessness resulting from forced evictions at the end of a lease. Also of benefit to tenants are longer periods between rent increases and increased security measures for boarding premises. However, it is not all good news for tenants with several new categories that can be used to evict tenants.
With the delaying of the introduction of minimum standards, the centrepiece of the legislative changes is still to happen, and we urge parliaments to prioritise this in the next sittings of lower and upper house.
Here is a list of the more important changes:
For all leases after 1st October 2014:
- Tenancies must be advertised at a fixed price and the landlord/agent must not invite a tenant to bid higher than the advertised fixed price.
- Tap washers and inaccessible light globes will be deemed to be urgent repair and therefore a landlord/agent responsibility. Standard, accessible light globes are the responsibility of the tenant. In addition, cooking stoves with less than half the elements working are deemed to be an urgent repair, while cooking stoves with at least half the elements working are deemed a general repair but with 14 days to repair, rather than the usual 28 days for general repairs.
- If an item unable to be repaired, the item is to be replaced with another that serves the same primary function and functions to a similar standard as the item before it was required to be repaired.
- If there is a Family Violence Order (FVO) in place to protect the tenant, the tenant may change the locks and security devices without the consent of the landlord/agent.
- A lease is immediately terminated if premises are deemed unfit to live in under the Public Health Act or if there is no surviving tenant in relation to the premises.
For all new leases after 1st October 2014 and for all leases after 1st October 2015:
- Only deposit-taking institutions (ie banks, credit unions) can charge fees for paying the rent. Other services that landlords/agents use to collect rent must not charge fees to the tenant.
- There must be 12 months between rent increases and at least 60 days notice. This does not apply to properties owned by Housing Tasmania who only need to give 60 days notice.
- The Residential Tenancy Commissioner will preside over disputes about rent increases instead of the Magistrates Court. Tenants will have 60 days from notice of the rent increase to lodge a dispute with the Commissioner.
- Tenants serving a Notice to Terminate to the landlord/agent for not carrying out repairs are advised to contact the Tenants’ Union because there are legislative drafting errors that make the Act difficult to interpret in this area. This area will be revisited by Parliament shortly.
- The landlord/agent will have to give at least 42 clear days notice before the end of the fixed term tenancy, so long as the notice is received between 60 days before the end date and the end date of the lease. Tenants not receiving a Notice to Vacate will rollover onto a non-fixed term lease immediately following the end date of the lease (formerly 28 days after the end date).
- The minimum notice period for an eviction due to repossession increases from 28 to 60 clear days.
- For a non-fixed period lease only, the minimum notice period for an eviction due to sale, renovation or use for another purpose increases from 28 to 42 clear days. Also, 42 clear days notice may be given if the dwelling is to be used by an owner’s partner, son, daughter or parent, a parent of the owner’s domestic partner or a person who is substantially dependent on the owner.
- Boarding premises must have adequate locks and security devices on the room of residence and entrance to the boarding premises. Bathroom and toilet facilities must allow the occupant the ability to exclude others while using the facility.
- Housing Tasmania owned properties, there are four new reasons to evict tenants (with notice periods in brackets):
- a) Exceeding income and asset thresholds (90 Clear Days). To view the thresholds check the Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading website.
- b) Not requiring all bedrooms in a 4 bedroom property and alternative premises are offered (28 Clear Days)
- c) Not requiring special facilities in a modified premises and alternative premises are offered (28 Clear Days)
- d) Being away from the premises for more than 8 weeks continuously without approval (14 Clear Days).
However, Housing Tasmania evictions for the above reasons must not result in unreasonable financial or social disadvantage to the tenant.
For all new leases after 1st October 2014 and for all leases after 1st December 2015:
- Tenants move on to a non-fixed term lease immediately following the end date of a fixed term lease unless you have been given a valid Notice to Vacate or you leave before or on the end date.