Queensland Rental Reforms

For almost two years, proposed rental law reforms have been a hot topic. The Queensland Government completed the Housing Legislation Amendment Act 2021 (HLA Act), that amends the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 to progress Stage 1 of Queensland’s rental law reform.

There are four main provisions that are included in The Bill. To assist our clients to understand this legislation, we have reproduced below a recent summary provided by the REIQ.

The Housing Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 has recently been passed in the Queensland parliament and the REIQ welcomes the improvement from the initial reforms proposed by the government.

For almost two years, rental reforms have been a hot topic in Queensland with the State Government’s initial proposals sparking a negative response from the real estate industry.

Although an improvement on the reforms that were initially proposed, REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella says the Bill swings the pendulum distinctly in favour of tenants and reduces property owners’ contractual rights.

There are four main provisions that are included in The Bill and we have broken them down to give you a better understanding of the changes.

Provision 1: domestic and family violence

Domestic and family violence protections were created after the onset of COVID-19 and this bill seeks to make those protections enduring.

Mercorella says these protections will enable a tenant who is experiencing domestic and family violence to bypass the usual requirements and financial obligations associated with terminating a lease.

“Victims of domestic and family violence will be able to terminate a tenancy agreement with only seven days’ notice and those seven days of rent is all they will be liable for,” she says.

Provision 2: pets

Many tenants want pets and equally, many property managers and landlords don’t want to deal with the potential issues pets can cause. The new legislation effectively eliminates a property owner’s right to have a ‘no pets’ policy.

However, Mercorella says tenants will need to ask approval for the pet. The landlord will then have the right to say no, but only on the basis of certain prescribed grounds.

To mitigate the tension between pet owners and landlords, the government has introduced two key changes.

The first is that pet damage has been excluded from the definition of fair wear and tear. This means property owners will be able to seek compensation for damage that’s caused by pets.

The second change is that the owner can now impose conditions in the approval of a pet. Mercorella says violating these conditions could potentially be a breach of the general tenancy agreement.

Provision 3: new grounds for termination

This provision exists to ensure that the property owner still preserves the right to end a tenancy after the culmination of a fixed term agreement. While the lessor no longer has the ability to end a tenancy without grounds, new grounds for termination have been established in this provision.

“One of the new grounds is the fixed term tenancy is reaching the end of its agreed term, so that will now become an actual ground that an owner can rely on when they give a notice to leave,” says Mercorella.

“Other new grounds include if the owner wants to sell the property or if the owner themselves want to move back in or a family member wants to move back in, or the property is to be developed, there’s a series of new grounds. Having said that, all of those do still require the fixed term tenancy to come to an end before they can be relied on.”

Changes to periodic tenancies

Mercorella says property owners have lost the right to end a periodic tenancy by providing notice. Tenants will however retain this right.

“Unless owners can establish limited prescribed grounds (such as the sale of the property) they will never be able to terminate a periodic tenancy,” she says.

“This is a retrograde step and will almost certainly result in the demise of periodic tenancies in Queensland. This reform will detrimentally impact tenants who are seeking maximum flexibility and would prefer not to commit to a fixed term tenancy.”

Provision 4: minimum housing standards

Another major provision sets out some basic standards that need to be met to allow a residential property to be rented in Queensland.

“The property needs to be waterproof. Locks on doors and windows need to work. Windows need to have some form of coverage on them. If there are kitchen and laundry facilities, they need to work,” says Mercorella.

In her point of view, Mercorella says this is an extension of Section 1 85 of the Residential Tenancies Act, which states a property needs to be in good working order before it can be inhabited.

“These are all very reasonable standards and I think they clarify that it shouldn’t be lawful to rent out a property that doesn’t meet these conditions,” she says.

“This is a great one for tenant security and deals with the landlords out there who are leasing properties that aren’t fit for human habitation.”

When will the provisions come into effect?

The minimum housing standard provisions will not come into effect until September 2023.

The domestic and family violence provisions came into effect (received assent) on 20 October 2021, but they largely replicate what has already been in place as part of the COVID-19 provisions.

Find out more from RTA

The rest of the provisions will come into effect in six to 12 months’ time, giving the REIQ and government bodies the opportunity to deliver education programs to the Queensland real estate sector.

Article credit: REIQ