Rental Law Reform Queensland

The Queensland Parliament recently passed the Housing Legislation Amendment Act 2021 to bring in important rental law reform. These legislative amendments are notable for favouring tenant rights while in some respects reducing landlord contractual rights. This article explains the four main provisions in the Act and their implications. Tenants and landlords should be familiar with these changes as they impact directly on the rights and duties of both parties. 

Provision 1: Domestic And Family Violence

Unfortunately, it is common for victims of domestic and family violence to feel trapped in the home with their abuser. Sometimes this is because the victim is listed on a tenancy agreement with their abuser. The victim may feel that they cannot leave the relationships during the term of the lease. In particular, the victim may worry that breaking the lease early will affect their ability to obtain housing in future. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, new protections were introduced to exempt a tenant who is experiencing domestic and family violence from the usual financial obligations and requirements associated with terminating a residential lease. The Act ensures that these protections continue to apply following the end of the pandemic. Victims of domestic and family violence can terminate a tenancy agreement with seven days’ notice, and in those circumstances, they are only liable to pay rent for the seven days.

Provision 2: Pets

Pet ownership is an important source of comfort and happiness for many Australians. For these people, their pets are valued members of their family. Unfortunately, pets have long been a point of contention between landlords and tenants. Tenants often want to bring a domestic pet into their home, but many landlords and property managers prefer not to deal with the potential problems resulting from pet ownership. Previously, landlords were permitted to prohibit all pets from being kept at a property, or to specify that only certain pets (eg dogs under a certain size or weight) could be kept.

The Act effectively eliminates a landlord’s right to prohibit pets at the property, with certain caveats. Tenants must still seek permission to keep a pet at the property, but the landlord can only reject the request under limited circumstances. This provision comes into effect on 1 October 2022.

It is not all bad news for landlords. Under the Act, pet damage is excluded from normal fair wear and tear. Landlords can seek compensation from the bond for any damage that the pet does to the rental property. They can also impose conditions on approving a pet application. If the tenant violates these conditions, this can be considered a breach of the general tenancy agreement.

Provision 3: Grounds For Termination

At the end of a fixed-term tenancy, a periodic tenancy is automatically created unless either party gives notice to end the tenancy. Previously, a landlord could end a periodic tenancy without giving a reason (“without grounds”). The Act amends the right of a landlord to end a periodic tenancy. Property owners must now establish grounds to terminate the periodic tenancy.

These amendments seem like a significant advance for tenants over the rights of landlords. Still, the Act also introduces new grounds for the landlord to terminate the tenancy. It is now sufficient grounds to terminate the tenancy if the landlord wants to sell or develop the property or move themselves or a family member into the home. It is also sufficient grounds if the fixed term tenancy has expired. This means that the situation for landlords and tenants remains largely the same as before the amendments.

Provision 4: Minimum Housing Standards

There have long been requirements imposed by the government to ensure that housing available for rental is reasonably safe for occupation. The Residential Tenancy Act 2008 (Qld) required that all rental properties must be in good working order. This requires landlords to make sure that properties are clean and fit to live in, in good repair, with no breach of health and safety standards. Beyond these basic requirements, tenants were able to choose to accept lower standards of housing in return for a lower rental rate.

The Housing Legislation Amendment Act 2021 further explains the requirements to meet these basic standards for a residential property to be fit for rental in Queensland. Specifically, the property must be waterproof and have locks on both doors and windows. Windows must have some form of coverage, and existing kitchen and laundry facilities must be functional for their purposes. These minimum housing standards apply to new tenancies from 1 September 2023, and all other tenancies from 1 September 2024. Properties that do not comply with these requirements are considered not fit for rental, regardless of how little rent is charged. Tenancy agreements will be unenforceable if they relate to properties that fail to meet the minimum standard.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

Author

Nicola Bowes

Dr Nicola Bowes holds a Bachelor of Arts with first-class honours from the University of Tasmania, a Bachelor of Laws with first-class honours from the Queensland University of Technology, and a PhD from The University of Queensland. After a decade of working in higher education, Nicola joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2020.
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