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RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES AMENDMENT (HOUSING STANDARDS) BILL 2009

     Residential Tenancies Amendment
       (Housing Standards) Bill 2009

                        Introduction Print

              EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM


                                 General
The Bill seeks to amend the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 in order--
            to enable the Minister for Housing to set by regulation
             minimum housing standards for rented premises and rooming
             houses;
            to resolve disputes between tenants and landlords arising from
             these minimum standards not being complied with.

                              Clause Notes
Clause 1   outlines the purpose of the amending Bill.

Clause 2   provides that the Bill will come into force on the day after which
           it receives the Royal Assent.

Clause 3   inserts a definition of prescribed minimum housing standard into
           the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

Clause 4   substitutes section 69 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997
           which currently requires a landlord, when replacing an older
           water fixture, to install at least an 'A rating' water device.
           This clause modifies section 69 so that a higher water rating may
           be set by the Minister, and this higher rating must be complied
           with.

Clause 5   inserts a new Division 5A into Part 2 of the Residential
           Tenancies Act 1997 which applies to rented premises.
           New section 71A(1) states that landlords must comply with any
           housing standards established by the Minister by regulation under
           that Act.




561PM15                              1       BILL LC INTRODUCTION 2/6/2009

 


 

If, after a standard has been prescribed by the Minister by regulation and the landlord fails to upgrade the premises by their own accord, new section 71A(2) allows tenants to instigate the process by informing the landlord in writing that the premises do not meet the prescribed standard. If the landlord fails to ensure the premises meet the minimum standard within 28 days after receiving the notice under new section 71A(2), new section 71C gives the tenant power to apply in writing to the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria. Under section 71C(2), the Director is then obliged to investigate the premises, and may negotiate arrangements to ensure that the premises comply with the standard. The Director must then send his or her report to the tenant within 28 days after receiving an application to investigate the premises. New section 71B allows for an alternative instigation procedure, whereby the Director may investigate whether a landlord has complied with the standard without receiving a notice from the tenant under section 71A. This enables a third party to bring the condition of a dwelling to the attention of the Director. Section 71B(2) provides the procedures the Director must follow upon finding that the premises do not meet the standard. If, within 60 days after the landlord receives the Director's report, the tenant is not satisfied that the minimum housing standard has been, or is being complied with, the tenant may seek an order from the Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal ("the Tribunal") under 71D. Subsection (2) provides that if the Director's report has not been provided to the tenant, the tenant may apply to the Tribunal regardless, once 90 days has passed from the date the Director received the tenant's complaint. New section 71E sets the scope of the Tribunal's orders. The Tribunal can order that the landlord comply with the standards, and set the time within which the minimum housing standards must be reached. New section 71F applies to situations where a tenancy agreement has been made, but the tenant has not yet entered into occupation of the rental premises and the landlord has been notified that the premises do not comply with a prescribed minimum housing standard. The tenant may choose to not enter into occupation of the premises. If the tenant chooses to enter the premises at a date later than that in the tenancy agreement, the tenant is not obliged to pay the rent from the agreed date, but from the date the tenant actually entered into occupation. This follows current practices within the Act in relation to houses not vacant or in a reasonably clean condition. 2

 


 

New section 71G applies where tenants are already in occupation of the premises and the landlord is aware that the premises have not met the standards through the procedures under section 71A(2) or 71B. After 28 days, the tenant may then seek an order from the Tribunal authorising rental payments to be paid into the Rent Special Account which will withhold the money until the landlord has ensured, or is ensuring the premises meet the minimum standards. If an order is made, the landlord may apply to the Tribunal, and the Tribunal may order part or whole of the held rent to be transferred if satisfied that the landlord is ensuring that the premises comply with the minimum housing standard. Clause 6 mirrors clause 4 in relation to water ratings, but is applied to situations where urgent repairs are required. Clause 7 applies to rooming houses and inserts a new Division 5A into Part 3 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. It is similar to clause 5. Clause 8 amends section 226 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 to allow a tenant who has not entered into possession to terminate the tenancy agreement provided he or she has notified the landlord of termination on the ground that the premises do not comply with the minimum housing standard. Clause 9 amends section 239 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 to allow a tenant in possession to terminate a tenancy agreement if the landlord does not comply with the housing standards in contravention of an order from the Tribunal. The tenant is obliged to give at least 14 days notice from the date the notice is served. Clause 10 amends section 485 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 to facilitate payments into the Rent Special Account under new sections 71G or 128G to be released to the landlord subsequent to the landlord's compliance with the Tribunal's order. Clause 11 amends section 511 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 which sets out regulation making powers. The amendments enable the Minister to set regulations imposing minimum housing standards for rental premises and rooming houses. The listed subject areas for regulations are not exhaustive. The Minister may set standards for matters of a similar kind to that contained within section 511(1)(e) and (ea). New section 511(2) describes the interplay between regulations made under section 511(1)(e) and (ea) and any other Victorian Act or regulation. If the minimum housing standard is not inconsistent with any other Act or regulation, it must be complied 3

 


 

with in addition to that other Act or regulation. Conversely, if the prescribed minimum housing standard is inconsistent, to the extent of the inconsistency with the other Act or regulation, the minimum housing standard is of no force or effect. New section 511(2A) gives both Houses of Parliament the power to disallow the Minister's regulation of setting a housing standard. A simple majority of either House will disallow the regulations. Clause 12 allows regulations to be made that are of a transitional nature. Clause 13 provides for the repeal of this amending Act on the first anniversary of the day on which it receives the Royal Assent. 4

 


 

 


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