Amendments to amendments of the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 (Tas) were formally introduced into Tasmania’s House of Assembly earlier this month (Tuesday, 3rd March 2015). And while the changes might seem relatively minor, the amendments, if passed, will finally enable the introduction of long awaited minimum standards for rental premises in Tasmania.
The introduction of the Residential Tenancy Amendment Act 2015 will see two amendments dealing with minimum standards and photographs as well as some drafting amendments concerned with errors in the original Amendment Act.
The minimum standard relating to cooking elements is being amended to require a premise with three or more bedrooms to have at least three hotplates, down from the requirement of four hotplates in the original draft. All smaller premises will have to have at least two hotplates. Furthermore, all premises must be equipped with an oven, which can be a microwave.
The restriction on the publication of photographs of a tenanted property will be broadened to apply to photos as well as film or video recordings that identify the tenant or another person. On the one hand, the amendment will be an improvement as it will include film or video recordings instead of photographs only.
However, whereas the previous draft meant that any object “that belongs to the tenant” could not be photographed, these five words have been removed, meaning that landlords and real estate agents will now be able to show any objects that do not identify the tenant or another person. We are concerned by this part of the proposed provision as it will allow valuable possessions to be displayed, breaching privacy and potentially increasing the security risk.
In October 2014 the Government proclaimed the entire 2013 Amendment Bill except for those two provisions dealing with minimum standards and the display of photographs
The background is that the Residential Tenancy Amendment Bill 2013 which was passed by both houses of Parliament in September 2013 was not proclaimed prior to the change of Government in March 2014. As a result, the amendments did not become law. Following the election, representations from landlord friendly stakeholders saw the Government agree to introduce a number of amendments as discussed above.
It is likely that the amendments will be passed in the House of Assembly this month before being sent to the Legislative Council.
Once introduced Tasmanian tenants will benefit from minimum standards, which include that a rental premise must be weatherproof and structurally sound, clean, in good repair and fulfill requirements towards bathrooms, cooking facilities, electricity, heating, window coverings and ventilation. The changes will be rolled out over three years from the time of their introduction, depending on the type of change as well as the date an individual lease was entered into.