Peninsula Community Legal Centre (PCLC) has welcomed recent changes to Victoria’s rental laws – which include the introduction of “basic standards” and limit rent rises to once a year – as making renting fairer for everyone.
PCLC has a large program to assist tenants living in private rental properties and for more than a decade has supported tenants who have not been given a fair go under the previous laws which created a power imbalance that favoured landlords.
The reforms, which came into effect at the end of March 2021, are a big step forward in correcting previous imbalances in the system that allowed landlords to rent out properties, often for high rents, that did not provide basic amenities such as functioning stoves, heating and deadlocks or have safety measures for gas, electricity and smoke alarms.
“The changes to the law mean that renters in Victoria are now provided with some of the basic protections that have existed elsewhere in the world for a long time,” said Jackie Galloway, CEO at PCLC. “It is only fair that rental properties must meet basic standards that make them safe and liveable.””
Other changes in the law are about issues that can have a big impact on renters’ quality of life such as being allowed to have a pet or nail picture hooks in the wall.
While the new laws have been criticised by some as being “too tough” on owners, many of the reforms address basic things which most Victorians would expect to be allowed to do in their own home.
“The new laws enable people to turn the house they rent into a home. They are not about maintaining a property to a luxury level, they are about maintaining it at a basic liveable level,’ said Ms. Galloway. “The reforms won’t require huge changes for those who are already providing safe and secure rentals”.
The new laws strike a better balance between strengthening renters’ rights and protecting vulnerable tenants while providing appropriate protections for owners.
“For example, renters have to ask if they can have a pet and if the owner does not agree they can apply for a VCAT decision that the pet should not be allowed’, said Ms Galloway. ”So an owner might be able to prevent a very large dog being kept in a very small unit, for example, but for most situations the renter can now make a home with the pet that they choose.”
PCLC has seen an increase in the number of renters facing eviction in the past two months.
“Since the COVID moratorium on evictions ended in March we have seen more renters receiving notices to vacate due to ongoing financial stress as a result of the pandemic” said Ms. Galloway. “It is important for renters to seek advice and act quickly to avoid the possibility of having to leave the rental property with nowhere to go.”
Anyone who has been served a Notice to Vacate their private rental property or who needs advice on the new laws or other general renting matters, such as getting repairs done, can call the Peninsula Community Legal Centre for free advice on 9783 3600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact: Kirsten Young, Community Engagement Officer Tel: 9783 3600