Reforms to Victoria's tenancy rules 'make renting fairer'

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Homeless Man
Homeless Veteran on the streets of Boston, MA Wikimedia Commons/Matthew Woitunski

Tenants in Victoria have earned the right to have a pet in their rental properties. This was made possible by reforms to the state's tenancy rules, which will also ban real estate agents from soliciting higher bids for rent.

The RSPCA has welcomed the decision of the Victorian government to include protections for pet owners in its latest changes to tenancy laws. On Sunday, the Andrews Labor government promised to shrink upfront bond payments, outlaw rent bidding and “no specified reason” notices to vacate and limit rent hikes to no more than once a year. Long-term leases were also introduced in response to a review of the state's Residential Tenancies Act.

Other provisions also include creating a blacklist, to be made publicly available, of estate agents and landlords who have been found in breach of rental laws. Premier Daniel Andrews said things have not been so fair as they were supposed to be, and the reforms will make renting fairer.

Under the new rules, it will be easier to own a pet in a rental. Landlords, under the existing rule, can automatically include a “no pets clause” in rental agreements. They will still need to provide consent under the reforms, but they can refuse only in certain circumstances. An example is a local council banning backyard chickens. Animals could not be allowed in a heritage dwelling if the cost of repairs was too high.

According to the RSPCA, 15 per cent of the dogs and cats turned in to them, over the past two years, were surrendered because the owners were moving and could not take their pets. If a renter in Victoria is refused the right to have a dog, he can now make an appeal to the VCAT or the courts.

Tenants will also be allowed to apply for the release of bonds even without written consent from landlords. It will be easier for them to make minor modifications to a rental property, like installing hooks for picture frames.

A Commissioner for Residential Tenancies will be appointed by the state government to serve as an advocate on behalf of tenants. "Someone who can be a watchdog, someone who can safeguard to ensure that in what is often an imbalanced relationship where the landlord and agent have all the power and given how tight the market is, the tenant can't speak up, [they] have no voice," Andrews said, according to ABC News.