When renting property, in Tasmania or elsewhere, it is good to know your rights as a tenant. The Residential Tenancy Amendment Bill has just passed through Parliament in Tasmania. This bill changes the rights of tenants and landlords in a few key areas. The changed are summarised below by the Tenants’ Union of Tasmania.
Tasmania will be the first state or territory to have legislated minimum standards for residential tenancies, following the successful passage of the Residential Tenancy Amendment Bill through the Upper House last Thursday.
The proposed minimum standards listed below went through unscathed but not without much discussion and some dissent. The standards require all tenanted properties to be:
- Weatherproof and structurally sound
- Clean and in good repair
- Equipped with bathroom and toilet
- Serviced with a kitchen sink, hotplates and an oven (which can be a microwave)
- Supplied with electricity and one fixed form of heating
- Provided with curtains (except properties owned by Housing Tasmania)
- Adequately ventilated
Other improvements to the legislation include:
- that a landlord/agent must not require a tenant to pay fees to lodge rent (eg transaction charge)
- increases in rent may only occur every 12 months, up from 6 months (except properties owned by Housing Tasmania)
- longer notice periods for most evictions, for example, there must be at least 42 days notice for an eviction at the end of a fixed term lease, rather than the present 14 days
- clarification that landlords/agents may not take photos of properties that identify the tenant
Several amendments also passed that are advantageous to landlords of which the most important are 1) the ability to evict tenants on a non-fixed lease if a family member of the landlord wants to move in and 2) that tenants must give notice when they want to end the lease. The latter of these was changed by the Upper House, requiring tenants to give 21 days notice at the end of a fixed term lease, up from the 14 days that was orginally in the Bill. The Tenants’ Union was disappointed with the late amendment because some tenants will now suffer 3 weeks of prospective tenants inspecting the house prior to vacation.
Another aspect of the Bill that the Tenants’ Union disagreed with was the introduction of income and asset tests for ongoing Housing Tasmania (HT) tenancies. Although some concessions were gained, the Tenants’ Union believed the best option was to scrap the income and asset tests due to the many downsides including futher stigmatisation of HT tenants, potential disincentives to work, further entrenchment of disadvantage in suburbs that are predominantly HT properties and evicting tenants who have done a great deal to improve their properties.
The TUT also believes that the asset thresholds are too low, especially for single people under the age of 55.
The changes to the Bill from the Upper House still need to be ratified by the Lower House and that could be done as early as this week. It is likely the new amendments to the Act will commence on July 1st 2014, with some of the minimum standards coming into force as late as 2017.