How recent changes to residential tenancy laws may affect you - Landlords bulletin 37

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Landlord / lessorProperty industry

16 December 2019

New Residential tenancy laws

The Consumer Protection Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 passed through parliament recently, bringing changes to residential tenancy laws that enhance and clarify tenants’ rights. In this bulletin we share an overview of the changes and how they affect you.

Affixing furniture

While Consumer Protection has actively encouraged lessors to permit tenants to affix furniture to prevent it toppling onto children, it was not a legal requirement until now. From 2 December 2019 changes to tenancy laws allow tenants to apply to a landlord for permission to affix furniture in order to ensure the safety of a child or person with a disability. The child or person with a disability for whom the request is being made is not required to be a resident of the tenanted premises.

A flat screen television is considered to be an item of furniture.

The tenant must make the request using the approved form and you have 14 days to respond. You can only refuse the request if:

  • affixing the item to the wall would disturb material containing asbestos; or
  • the premises is entered in the Register of Heritage Places; or
  • the premises is situated in a strata scheme with by-laws prohibiting the affixing of the item to the wall of the premises.

If you do not respond within the 14 days you are taken to have consented to the request.

The tenant must notify you in writing of any damage caused by affixing and removing furniture, and may be asked to repair the damage or compensate you for the cost of doing it yourself. The tenant must remove the items from the wall at the end of the tenancy and restore the wall to its original condition unless you otherwise agree in writing.

Read our Furniture stability factsheet and webpage for complete details.

Utilities payments

From 1 January 2020 the laws clarify the responsibility for utilities charges when the service is connected in the name of the lessor or a strata company. In this case the tenant is only responsible to pay the cost for their consumption if the service is separately metered or if not separately metered then only if the calculation of the charge has previously been agreed in writing between the lessor and the tenant.

If the service is not in the name of the tenant, the tenant is not responsible for any charges other than consumption. Further, you must provide the tenant a detailed written notice of the charge, including the metre readings and the charge per metred unit within 30 days of receiving the water, gas or electricity bill from the provider.

The charges to the tenant can include the GST component of the consumption amount.

The Paying rates and utilities page will be updated on 2 January 2020.

Damage to common areas

Standard tenancy agreements require tenants to not intentionally or negligently cause damage or permit damage to be caused to the residential premises. From 1 January 2020 tenants will be responsible for damage to common areas and chattels in common areas of premises (including a strata premises). A court may terminate a residential tenancy agreement where the tenant has intentionally or recklessly caused or permitted serious damage to a common area or chattels in the common area of the premises.

What are chattels?

Chattels are items that can be moved and are not considered to be part of the building, for example, clothes washer or dryer, rugs, chairs, tables, sofas and pot plants.

Representation in the Magistrates Court

From 1 January 2020 discretion has been restored to Magistrates to appoint an appropriate person to represent a party in court. The Magistrate must still permit a property manager or tenant or lessor advocate employed by a non-profit association or similar body to represent a party in court, but will have discretion to appoint an appropriate person if deemed necessary. This could be required if a party is unable to attend due to being ill or overseas, for example. This person will have to demonstrate that they have sufficient knowledge of the issue to provide that they can appropriately represent the party. In order to agree to the representation the Magistrate must still be convinced that the other party will not be disadvantaged by the representation.

Need more information? Were here to help!

Contact Consumer Protection by phone on 1300 304 054 or by email.

Consumer Protection
Last updated 17 Dec 2019

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