The Queensland Government recently announced policy changes to rental laws that will amend the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008. The proposed changes follow consultation with various stakeholders and will affect property managers including strata Body Corporates.
In terms of the industry’s reaction, the Real Estate Institute Queensland (REIQ) strongly opposes the Queensland rental law reforms, and is concerned that they will erode fundamental landlord rights, incur substantial additional costs, and deter property investment across the state. The ‘ripple effect’ may also see rent increases and renters therefore struggling to find suitable housing under already tight conditions.
But exactly how will this Queensland rental law reform affect the strata sector?
It is sometimes the case that tenants refrain from exercising their tenancy rights because they are fearful their landlord may terminate their tenancy without cause. One of the impacts of the rental reform may be that landlords will need to cite a genuine reason to terminate a tenancy agreement. Tenants may also be given additional rights to terminate tenancy agreements on short notice and in certain circumstances, such as in the event of family or domestic violence.
Another way rental reform will affect the strata sector, is in the area of tenants renting a property ‘as is’. Essentially, rental property owners and property managers may be required to meet certain minimum standards, in terms of:
- pests and vermin control
- drainage and plumbing
- structural soundness and weatherproofing
- the standard of repair of fittings and fixtures
- lighting, ventilation and privacy
- cooking and food preparation amenities
If standards aren’t met, tenants may have the right to apply through the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to seek the appropriate action. This includes not paying some or all of their rent until complaints have been addressed.
Personal circumstances sometimes require that tenants need to make minor changes to their rental property. ‘Minor’ modifications are defined as those that can be reversed, don’t need building or other approvals, and don’t permanently alter the property. These tenants include:
- families with young children who require safety locks
- people experiencing domestic or family violence
- those with disabilities
- those who require accessibility modifications to the propert
A second category of minor modifications will require the tenant to obtain the permission of the landlord or property owner. If a response to the request is not received within seven days, then it will be deemed as ‘granted’. The ability for a landlord or property owner to refuse them in future may also be limited. These modifications include:
- personalising or improving the amenities of the property
- modifications relating to water and energy efficiency
- modifications relating to non-essential communications services like TV satellite dishes
The impacts of the rental reform, particularly in the strata sector, revolve around whether a tenant’s rights to make modifications will extend to common areas as well. If they do, then obviously this will be of concern to the Body Corporate. What’s not clear is whether tenants will have more rights than lot owners in terms of modifications, particularly where owners may have the same personal circumstances.
Currently, landlords have the right to deny the right for tenants to have pets on a property. With the new Queensland rental law reforms, owners can apply to the QCAT to ensure their property remains pet-free, however they cannot refuse pets unless they cite a reasonable reason to do so.
In terms of the strata sector, Body Corporates have been considered in that reasonable grounds for refusal would include if:
- the rental property is unsuitable for the type of pet
- they are an unacceptable risk to the condition of the property or to health and safety
- keeping a pet contravenes a law or a community by-law or rule
The consultation draft list includes a number of stakeholders – primarily property owners, property managers, tenants, social housing, the government and the community. Unfortunately, Body Corporates have not yet been included on that list. Therefore, one of the major concerns is that tenants will simply arrive with a pet or install a new satellite dish without the Body Corporate committee knowing anything about it!
Concerned about how Queensland rental law reform will affect you as a property investor? Get in touch with our Body Corporate Management team. We’re here to help! !