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25 June 2015

Amendments to Residential Tenancy Act 1997

Both property owners and tenants should be aware of imminent changes** to residential tenancy law in Tasmania. The Tasmanian Parliament recently passed the Residential Tenancy Amendment Bill 2015 which will amend the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 (“the Act”).

This Bill is the first of its kind in Australia in that it provides minimum standards that must exist in all properties that are the subject of a residential tenancy agreement. Until now, as long as a tenant accepted a property in the condition in which it came, there were no minimum housing standards in Tasmania. This meant that landlords may legally rent properties to tenants without cooking facilities or even hot water.

Among others, some of the minimum standards that landlords will now need to ensure their properties meet are:

That it is weatherproof and in a proper state of structural repair;
That it is clean and in good repair;
That there is a flushable toilet;
That there is a bathroom which is in a separate room and contains either a bath or shower and a washbasin as well as a continuous supply of a reasonable amount of hot and cold water;
That there is either an electric heater or a gas heater which is a fixture or a heat pump, wood heater or open fire place; and
That there is a room which can be used for cooking that has a kitchen sink with hot and cold water, a functioning oven and a stovetop with 2 or more functioning heating elements for properties with 2 or fewer bedrooms and 3 functioning elements for properties with 3 or more bedrooms.
Should a landlord fail to provide these new minimum standards to their tenant(s), the maximum penalty for each offence is $7,000.

In addition to the minimum standards, the Residential Tenancy Amendment Bill 2015 also provides that a landlord cannot display any photo, film or video recording which may identify the tenant of a property or another person without their written consent. This should be kept in mind when selling a property or advertising a property for lease, particularly as it is the property owner who is responsible for compliance rather than an agent acting on their behalf. The maximum penalty for this offence is again $7,000.

These changes will soon come into effect meaning that any landlord about to enter into a residential tenancy agreement should ensure their property complies. Similarly, any person looking to buy an investment property that is the subject of a residential lease should obtain a warranty from the vendor in the contract for sale that the property complies with these new minimum standards as prescribed by the Act.

**Please note that the amendments referred to in this article have since been enacted and are now in force.

Submitted by Brett Gart

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