12 months on …. The Residential Tenancies Act

Property Managers throughout Victoria should take a bow. 

In the last two years, there have been 2 separate and highly complex pieces of legislation thrown at them only 12 months apart and they’ve stood up and managed them as well as I’ve seen anywhere; with all the distress and anxiety of covid and the lack of clarity caused by the “no evictions” edict and emergency legislation hammering away at us 2 years ago, through to the new Act coming in this time last year, there was considerable concern about just how this would all be implemented.

We lost quite a number of our colleagues who left the sector due to the strain of this, but in overall terms, the Property Managers who survived have risen to the challenge and can justifiably be proud of the way they’ve navigated their way through a very difficult time, especially when there is resistance from some of their clients.  

We’re now a year in from the changes to the Act and while some parts of the legislation are still taking a bit of getting used to, where agencies have planned well and implemented procedures the majority of the changes have been handled smoothly and the transition out of the Emergency Act into the amended Residential Tenancies Act has gone well.

The big frustration though has been VCAT and the unbelievable delays in getting to hearing and then noticeable propensity to favour the renter even where clear evidence of breaches and other hardships caused to owners has been presented in hearings.

In summary, the areas of greatest change and challenge are these:

Disclosure statements

These were made mandatory on all new leases from the inception of the Act, and essentially cover areas which might create concern for renters – a type of roadworthy and warranty for them would be an appropriate explanation. Some of the areas covered in this were whether the owner was intending to sell the property during the lease term, whether the property had been used to cultivate of manufacture drugs, that the Rental Minimum Standards were adhered to, and the date of the last electrical and gas safety check (I’ll cover these in more detail below…).

Incredibly though, I’ve come across some agencies and some private owners who have not furnished their renter with the disclosure statement, which places them at great risk of being fined heavily.

Rental minimum standards

This is one which has been met with great support by the property management community; minimum standards have now been set and as such, rental properties must now conform to basic standards in their rental properties, these mainly include:

  • A cooktop with two or more burners in kitchens although interestingly, an oven is not a requirement unless it is already in existence
  • A fixed heater in good working order in the main living room
  • Curtains or blinds to be fitted to any room that is likely to be used as a bedroom or living area (from today, 29th March 2022)
  • The installation of shower heads with an efficiency rating of 3 or above
  • Hot and cold water connections to wet areas
  • All fixed heaters will be required to be energy efficient (ie; with an energy efficiency rating of at least 2) from 2023

Safety compliance

Smoke alarms. Hard-wired alarms with a battery back-up have been mandatory in all properties in the state for all properties built after 1st August 1997. Properties built prior to that can have a battery-powered smoke alarm. All smoke alarms must be tested annually in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions; if the alarm is hard wired though, it needs a ‘suitably qualified person’ to test the alarm, which involves a bit more than just pressing the button each year.

Gas and electrical safety checks – Safety checks for gas and electrical fittings and utilities are now compulsory.  This must be done every two years, with the first completed by March 2023 or, prior to any leasing or renewal of a lease of the premises. Also from March 2023, every property will be required to be fitted with switchboards and RCDs.

Urgent repairs

Renters can now be reimbursed up to $2500 for an urgent repair by the RRP if they have made a reasonable attempt to contact the RRP/agent and didn’t receive an immediate response – and the list of urgent repairs now includes any of the Rental Minimum Standards which has not been completed, and repairs to air-conditioners.

Modifications, fixtures and alterations by renters

Renters may now make certain modifications to a rental property without requesting RRP approval this would extend to installation of picture hooks other than on an exposed brick or concrete wall and certain security devices. For modifications where rental provider approval is required it may not be unreasonably withheld.

An additional amount of bond can be requested for certain alterations to cover the cost of rectification works at the end of the tenancy but this is yet to be tested in hearings.

Rent auctions

All rentals must be offered at a fixed price – agents and rental providers can not invite applicants to submit offers above the asking price; this doesn’t prevent renters offering more independently however we as professionals can’t suggest this.


A maximum bond of one month’s rent only for new lease agreements under $900 per week, however an RRP can request an additional bond amount for long-term agreements but only if the renter has been in place for more than five years and there has been at least 120 days’ notice.

Additionally, renters can now also initiate their bond refund online through RTBA, the agent/RRP is then given 10 business days to object by filing a claim in the normal manner.


This one is causing some heartburn within the wider investor community we know, however there’s little we can do now that it’s law and VCAT are siding with the renter on it…

Renters can now keep pets at their property with the consent of the rental provider. If the rental provider would like to refuse permission, they must apply to VCAT for an order to exclude the pet but there must be very compelling reasons for the refusal.  If a renter fails to seek consent, a notice to vacate can be issued due to the renter having an unapproved pet at the property. 

The “Reasonable and Proportionate” Test

While there has always been some flexibility for members in hearings, this has now been enshrined in the Act and VCAT can look at each possession hearing and apply the test of “reasonable and proportionate”.  They will look at matters like the nature and frequency of the behaviour, if it was trivial, whether there’s a family violence application or another course of action available than a possession order, and the behaviour of the RRP or Agent in the matter – this is not an exhaustive list but gives an idea of what we now face in gaining possession – the aim of this test is that eviction is the last resort.

Evictions for repeated arrears events

When a renter falls 14 days behind with rent, notice to vacate for rent arrears can be served; however, if the rent is paid during the notice period, the notice will not be valid and will count as a “strike”. This can happen four times over a 12-month period and on the fifth event, the RRP or agent can apply to VCAT for a possession order. VCAT may choose to then place the renter on a payment plan rather than proceed with a possession order. This system of “strikes” resets at the anniversary of the lease, regardless of when it started.

Reasons for termination of a tenancy

We no longer have access to the ‘no specified reason’ 120-day Notice to Vacate. Valid reasons to issue a Notice to Vacate include: change of use, sale, demolition of the rental premises, or intention for the owner to reoccupy or end of a fixed term tenancy – this last option only applies to the first fixed term lease and stringent time lines for its service apply.

There is also now a new reason; a Notice to Vacate may be served for ‘endangering safety’. This can be invoked if the Renter or a visitor of the Renter endangers the safety of the RRP, agents or contractors or neighbours, or intimidates or threatens either the RRP, agent or one of their contractors.

This is a summary of the more major changes the legislation wrought on the industry last year and is not completely comprehensive – there were over 130 changes contained in the amendments so for more detail and training in this, email me at kirk@thepmcoach.com.au