News and Views

Many tenants and housing workers have been asking for a summary of the changes to the Residential Tenancy Act that were passed by the Tasmanian Parliament in September, so here they are.  We can’t stress enough that these rules are have not come into effect yet. There has been no announcement about a commencement date but you can keep up-to-date with the latest through the Tenants’ Union website.  The main changes are:

  • Tenants will move on to a non-fixed term lease immediately following the end of a fixed term lease unless you have been given a valid Notice to Vacate or you give a valid Notice to Terminate prior to the end of the fixed term lease.
  • Tenancies will have to be advertised at a fixed price and the landlord/agent must not invite a tenant to bid higher than the advertised fixed price.
  • In addition to existing requirements, there will be minimum standards for residential tenancies.  The standards will be rolled out over the next few years and a list of them can be found below.
  • Only deposit-taking institutions (ie banks, credit unions) will be able to charge fees for paying the rent.  Other services that landlords/agents use to collect rent must not charge fees to the tenant.
  • There will need to 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.
  • The new minimum standards for residential tenancy premises will come into effect over the next few years and are 1) weatherproof and structurally sound, 2) cleanliness at the start of the tenancy, 3) good repair, 4) weatherproof and structurally sound 5) bathroom and toilet, 6) cooking facilities, 7) electricity, 8) heating in main living area, 9) window coverings* and 10) adequate ventilation.  *Properties owned by Housing Tasmania are exempt from this requirement
  • 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 will be 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 is unable to be repaired, the item is to be replaced with an item that serves the same primary function and functions to a similar standard as the original item before it was required to be repaired.
  • The Residential Tenancy Commissioner will replace the Magistrates Court in deciding upon repair disputes.
  • In addition to existing legislation, the landlord/ agent will need to have the tenant’s written permission to publicly display photographs that show an object identifying a tenant or another person or photographs that display a tenant’s belongings.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Minimum notice extends from 28 clear days to 60 clear days for premises that have been repossessed.
  • Tenants evicted on a non-fixed term lease for the reason of sale, renovation or change to another purpose will have the minimum notice period extended from 28 clear days to 42 clear days.
  • An extra reason for eviction will be added: Tenants can be evicted on a non-fixed term lease because the premises are to be used as a residence by a member of the family of the owner.  This new reason will have a minimum notice period of 42 clear days.
  • For Housing Tasmania owned properties only, tenants may be evicted for the following reasons (with minimum notice periods in brackets):
    • Exceeding income and asset thresholds (90 clear days)
    • Not requiring all bedrooms in a 4 bedroom property and alternative premises are offered (28 clear days)
    • Not requiring special facilities in a modified premises and alternative premises are offered (28 clear days)
    • Being away from the premises for more than 8 weeks continuously without approval (14 clear days)
  • Tenants wanting to leave at the end of a fixed term lease will need to give at least 21 clear days notice, and the notice must be given between 60 days before the end date and the end date.  Tenants wanting to leave a non-fixed term lease still need to give 14 days notice.
  • Boarding premises will need to 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.

The Tenants’ Union and other groups associated with Tasmanian residential tenancy are likely to meet with the Government in the new year to discuss the implementation of the new rules.  We’ll report on this and other issues associated with the changes as they come to hand.