What do the new Queensland renting laws mean for you?

October 14, 2021

New tenancy laws finally passed in Queensland parliament, concluding stage one. In brief, here is what you can expect:

Changes include:

  • the reasons tenancies can be ended,
  • the introduction of minimum housing standards 
  • renting with pets; and
  • increased protections for people experiencing domestic and family violence.

1: Reasons tenancies can be ended (commencement date not yet known)

The new laws allow property owners to only end tenancy agreements for approved reasons. Such as –

  • Owner or their relative need to occupy the rental property (periodic agreement only)
  • Significant repair or renovation to be completed at the rental property (periodic agreement only)
  • Sale or preparation for sale of the rental property requires vacant possession (periodic agreement only)
  • Serious or significant breach caused by the actions of a tenant, occupant or guest
  • Person is occupying without consent
  • End of a fixed term agreement
  • Planned property redevelopment or demolition (periodic agreement only)
  • Repeated tenant breach of by-laws or park rules
  • Change of use (e.g. move to short-stay accommodation) (periodic agreement only)
  • Queensland Government owned rental accommodation is required for a public or statutory purpose (periodic agreement only)
  • For purpose-built off campus student accommodation: the tenant is no longer entitled to reside in the student accommodation

The new laws include the following reasons that tenants can end a tenancy –

  • Rental property is not in good repair, is unfit for human habitation or does not comply with Minimum Housing Standards
  • The owner has not complied with a QCAT repair order to undertake repair or maintenance of the rental property
  • The owner provided false or misleading information about the tenancy agreement or rental property
  • A co-tenant has died
  • For purpose-built off campus student accommodation: the tenant is no longer entitled to reside in the student accommodation

2: Minimum housing standards (they don’t start until September 2023, and fully commence by September 2024.)

The Minimum Housing Standards for rental accommodation focuses on safety, security and reasonable functionality and enhance repairs and maintenance provisions.
New changes in the legislation are –

  • Accessible external windows and doors must have functioning latches to prevent ingress.
  • Free of infestation such as mould and mildew
  • Window coverings, treatments or modesty feature are provided in rooms where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. Example, bathroom, toilet, bedroom.

3: Renting with pets (commencement date not yet known)

New changes to renting with pets will allow a property owner to refuse a pet on prescribed reasonable grounds that cannot be addressed by prescribed reasonable conditions. This is intended to require owners to consider the specific circumstances or the specific attributes of a pet request and deter blanket “no pets” rules. ‘Pets’ can include a wide range of animals and are not restricted to dogs and cats. An example can be provided in legislation to indicate that a blanket ‘no pets’ is not reasonable, whereas an unfenced property may be able to indicate ‘no dogs’.

Grounds to refuse a pet will include –

  • the rental property is unsuitable for the proposed pet
  • the pet poses an unacceptable risk to health and safety
  • keeping the pet would breach laws, by-laws or park rules

Keeping a pet maybe subject to conditions. They must be reasonable in regard to the type of pet and nature of premises. 

  • Conditions must be included in the lessor’s written approval.
  • Examples of what are reasonable conditions: (a) if the pet is not a type of pet ordinarily kept inside—a condition requiring the pet to be kept outside at the premises; (b) if the pet is capable of carrying parasites that could infest the premises—a condition requiring the premises to be professionally fumigated at the end of the tenancy; (c) if the pet is allowed inside the premises—a condition requiring carpets in the premises to be professionally cleaned at the end of the tenancy.
  • The conditions are void if they increase the rent or bond, require a form of security.

Tenants will be liable for any damage caused by the pet (as they are now).

4: Domestic and family violence (DFV) protections (commencement date not yet know)

The new laws will see that the protections included in the COVID-19 Emergency Response 2020  made permanent. These include –

  • allow renters experiencing DFV to end their interest in a residential tenancy quickly with seven days notice supported by evidence
  • limit these renters’ liability for end of lease costs to the equivalent of one weeks rent and facilitate quick access to a refund of any contribution they made to the rental bond
  • allow these renters to change the locks to their rental property, if the tenant believes it is necessary to protect them or an occupant from domestic violence, without the property owner or manager’s consent
  • require owners and their agents to comply with confidentiality obligations for any information disclosed to them by a renter who leaves a tenancy due to experiencing DFV
  • requiring owners to notify any remaining co-tenants that the tenancy agreement continues for them on the same terms
  • allowing the owner to request remaining co-tenants top up the rental bond to the amount required under the tenancy agreement if required.

MEDIA RELEASE: Government passes new renting laws.

October 14, 2021

MEDIA RELEASE

Today, the Palaszczuk Government passed its new tenancy legislation with some amendments, calling it ‘striking the right balance between renters and property owners’. Advocates from the community sector have welcomed the long overdue rental reform acknowledging some amendments will improve Queensland renters’ rights but expressing concern that protections do not go far enough.

Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) CEO Aimee McVeigh said that some of the government’s reforms are an improvement for Queensland’s 1.8 million renters, but that more must be done urgently.

“The next stage of rental reforms must happen immediately in light of Queensland’s housing crisis. Renters are competing in unbelievably tight rental markets with vacancy rates below 1 per cent throughout Queensland and, even when they can find a place, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to stay in their home beyond six or twelve months.

“The reality is that the housing market is failing millions of Queenslanders, and government intervention is needed. Tenants need housing security and minimum standards like lighting, ventilation and energy efficiency and these protections must be provided by the law,” said Ms McVeigh.

A key element needed in the government’s next round of rental reforms is to permit tenants to make minor modifications to their homes.

CEO of Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN), Paige Armstrong, said for many of their members, private rental is made all the more difficult due to the need for minor modifications to make a property accessible.

“It is disappointing to see that minor modifications have not been included in this round of rental reforms. There are over 900,000 people with disability living in Queensland, and a significant number rent in the private sector.

“It is really important for people with disability and many other people in our community to be able to carry out minor modifications. It helps people feel safe, to maintain their independence and carry out basic day to day tasks.

“Renters with disability have been waiting years for these reforms and we need to see change,” said Ms Armstrong.

Penny Carr, CEO of Tenants Queensland, the state’s tenant advisory specialists, welcomed the finalisation of this first stage of the reforms which she said is long overdue and a welcome relief.

“Renters will find it somewhat easier to keep a pet and to have repairs attended to but they will wait until 2024 for minimum standards and will still be subjected to arbitrary evictions. These laws are not ones for a modern Queensland as they don’t offer strong enough protections from unfair evictions,” said Ms Carr.

Ms Carr acknowledged the government’s commitment to rental reforms and stated the changes included a number of positive changes for Queensland renters but overall are still disappointing, falling well short of modernising the laws.

“Our focus will now be to ensure all Queensland renters understand the new laws, how to exercise their rights and meet obligations, without fear of eviction.

“We will be watching the impact of these reforms very closely to advise the government of any negative impacts on Queensland renters, then working hard to achieve greater outcomes in stage two,” said Ms Carr.

The Housing Minister has committed to stage 2 of rental reform to begin in the first half of 2022 with minor modifications to be the top priority.

ENDS.

Media contact:

QCOSS media – 0481 854 101
QDN media – 1300 363 783
Tenants Queensland, Penny Carr – 0418 747 921

Our Rally for Renters’ Rights

October 8, 2021

On Thursday 7 August, the Make Renting Fair in Queensland campaign hosted a COVID safe in person rally and an online virtual rally, encouraging all Queenslanders to get on board and raise their voices for renters’ rights.

We had guest speakers

– Penny Carr, CEO Tenants Queensland and Make Renting Fair Qld Alliance member
– Elisha, Disability advocate and Queensland renter
– Jae, Queensland renter
– Michelle Moss, Director Queenslanders with Disability Network and Make Renting Fair in Queensland alliance
– Paty, Tenant advice worker Community Plus+ West End Community House
…. PLUS! Hear more stories from Queensland renters.

You can watch our live video from our rally here on our Facebook page. 

If you haven’t already – take these three easy steps to Raise Your Voice for Renters’ Rights.

Michelle has been forced to relocate to Brisbane to stay with family and has been left with no other option than to fly in and out of Rockhampton for work. 

September 23, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michelle* rented a property in central Queensland for 5 years. The property had been built by her landlord and had significant structural issues. There was cracking throughout the unit, the walls had separated from the roof in sections and water seeped in when it rained.  The bathrooms did not have any ventilation or exhaust fans and there ongoing problems with mould. The windows in the property were also badly broken, offering little protection from cold, wind and rain, as well as posing a security issue.

Michelle made repeated requests to her property manager to improve the ventilation in the bathroom to stop the mould and repair the broken windows, however the property manager failed to take any action.

During the time Michelle was in the property the lock to the main door also broke.  Despite Michelle issuing multiple breach notices, it took more than 3 weeks for her property manager to get the repair done.

“As a single female in a high crime area I didn’t feel safe. I had no other option than to use an 8kg kettle bell to secure the door.”

Despite the property’s appalling condition, the landlord increased Michelle’s rent at every lease renewal. When Michelle again confronted the property manager about the repairs, she accused Michelle of being in rent arrears.

“The house was a threat to my health and safety. But when I tried to talk to my property manager about it, she accused me of being in behind in my rent. I was completely shocked. I had receipts to show that I had always paid my rent on time.”

When Michelle questioned the property manager about the rent increase, she told Michelle that they had increased her rent 5 months ago. The property manager was unable to provide Michelle with any proof that they had notified her of the rent increase and then proceeded to ask her to sign a backdated lease to reflect the rent increase. When Michelle refused, the property manager issued her with a “without grounds” eviction. Michelle is in no doubt that this a retaliatory eviction for standing up for her rights.

“The property has since been leased with a rent hike of $100 on top of what I had been paying, and without any of the issues being resolved. It is sickening that landlord greed and the unscrupulous conduct of agents is allowed to run rampant, whilst hardworking and decent tenants are cast out on the streets or placed in precarious positions for speaking up.”

When Michelle received the eviction notice back in late April, she did everything she could to find another rental property. However, with vacancy rates at record lows across many Queensland regional areas, she is still struggling to find a new home. She has been forced to relocate to Brisbane to stay with family and has been left with no other option than to fly in and out of Rockhampton for work.

“I’m just lucky that my employer allowed me flexible working arrangements, otherwise I would have lost my job as well. I’m a senior project manager and it’s pretty tough trying to stay on top of things from Brisbane.”

Michelle has applied for more than 70 rental properties since April but keeps getting knocked back. She is currently in Rockhampton for work and staying in a budget hotel costing $86 per night.

(*Name changed for anonymity)

Stock image used.

“Being asked to leave threw our family into chaos.  We knew the rental market was bad, but we had no idea just how bad it was.”

September 13, 2021

Pamela has been living in her rental home for almost 4 years.  The property is also home to her extended family, including her daughter who is an essential worker.  Pamela is also a carer for another family member who has a disability.

For almost 4 years she looked after the house like it was her own, not only maintaining the property but also making improvements at her own cost (with the landlord’s approval), such as re-painting the front door and paying for external house washing.  Pamela has always paid her rent on time and was never given any breaches by the agent.  However, things when changed the house was sold and the new landlord appointed a different real estate agent to manage Pamela’s property.

“They didn’t like that we had 4 vehicles on the property and that our garage was a workshop for my son’s hobbies.  We were given 60 days to leave without cause.  They said it was to do repairs, but the property was in good shape and didn’t need repairs,” Pamela said.

“Being asked to leave threw our family into chaos.  We knew the rental market was bad, but we had no idea just how bad it was. We would have at least 5 applications running at a time with no luck.  When our time ran out, I asked the real estate agent for an extension, and they gave us another month.  However, we still didn’t have any luck getting a house.”

Pamela said she sent the agent a spreadsheet of all the rental property applications she had made and was able to negotiate another 3-month lease.

“They offered us an extension but increased the rent by $100 per week.  We had little option but to accept to keep a roof over our heads,” Pamela stated.  “We are currently 2 weeks into this 3-month extension, and I am worn out from doing applications, house viewing and constant rejections.  None of this is fair.  It seems like the new owner just doesn’t like us and because of that our lives have been turned upside down.”

Pamela described her fear of being left without a place to call home.  “I’m sick with worry that we won’t be able to find another place and we’ll be turned out onto the streets.  I don’t have anyone I can couch surf with, so I’m ringing the homeless hot line to find out my options.  I have a good rental history and excellent references.  I should not be in this situation. Notice to leave without cause needs to be stopped.”

Kate’s youngest child’s allergies started playing up and the family subsequently discovered mould in the carpet.

September 8, 2021

Kate* and her family were happy living in their rental home. Her kids were of school age and their home was within walking distance to the school.

Having moved into an older house, the lounge room carpet was already pretty worn but still in okay condition. After a while, Kate’s youngest child’s allergies started to flare up and the family subsequently discovered a patch of black mould in the carpet.

Kate contacted the real estate to let them know of the discovery and asked that the carpet be replaced, but was told by the agent that the owner would not do this and suggested that, since it was her child having these issues, they should move house.

Kate and her family loved living there and did not want to move. She even offered that her and her family would go on a week long holiday to facilitate the carpet replacement.

The real estate told them that the owner wanted the family out of the house and that the owner was not going to be renting the house after they left anyway.

Feeling like they had no other choice, Kate and her family ended up moving out. They found another home, however had to pay significant higher rent than they wanted to, because of low vacancy rates in the area. The savings they had, that was going toward a house deposit, ended up being used for moving and cleaning costs.

A few weeks after they had moved out, Kate was asked to return to the rental to attend to a mark on a bedroom wall. When she arrived, she found that there was a new family living in the house and all the carpets in the house, including lounge room, had been replaced.

Kate was devastated that her family had to pack up and move from this rental, and believes that the real estate hadn’t acted in their best interests by not telling the owner how much they were willing to work with the owner to get the carpets replaced, and how much the family loved the home.

 

(*Name changed for anonymity)

Stock image used.

“We had lived in our home for nearly three years, made good friends in the community. Now we have had to leave, for no good reason.”

September 2, 2021

Janine and her family lived in their rental home for nearly 3 years. Janine said they had always paid the rent on time, taken good care of the property and the real estate agent never raised any concerns with them until the last inspection.

“Then they complained about the state of the house as we had baby gates and other children’s items out,” Janine said.

Before they knew it, the family had received a notice to leave without grounds. The real estate agent immediately re-advertised the rental home in Brisbane’s northern suburbs with a substantial rent increase.

Janine described the process of trying to find another home for her family as “an absolute nightmare”. They applied for 12 rental properties without success. Only by chance, Janine’s family were finally able to secure another property when she made a well-timed phone call to an agent who had just received notice from another tenant wanting to break lease. While the family were able to keep a roof over their heads, they were forced into debt to pay for moving costs.

The real estate agent never offered them the option to pay the increased rent to stay.

“We had lived in our home for nearly three years, made good friends in the community, and our neighbours are like family. Now we have had to leave, for no good reason. We would have happily paid the extra rent if it meant avoiding the hassle of moving, especially with a young family.”

Being faced with potential homelessness has had an enormous impact on her family and Janine still cannot understand why they were given a notice to leave.

“It just doesn’t seem fair that a property manager can push us out of our home when we’ve done nothing wrong.  I can’t think about what might have happened to us if we hadn’t been lucky enough to find another house.  It’s just too scary,” Janine said.

Nik doesn’t know what he would do without his four legged friends.

September 1, 2021

Queensland renter Nik*, is a tow truck driver and has been living in his Logan rental property for the last five years. Nik’s landlord gave him approval for him to keep his dogs back in 2017, and it was documented on the lease.

Nik has two Maltese dogs, Monkey and Willow (pictured) and they have been his companions for a number of years and during some really tough times, like when he was recovering from his eye surgery last year.

 

“My dogs have been with me for four years, helping me through my anxiety, my depression through COVID and after my eye surgery,” he said.

However, in January this year the real estate agent managing Nik’s property changed. When the new agent offered him a lease renewal, he noticed that the pet section on his lease agreement wasn’t ticked. Nik questioned the agent about it, and they told him that the landlord doesn’t give permission for him to keep a dog.

The agent then issued him with a breach notice.

Nik tried offering more rent but the agent still said no. Nik has requested dispute resolution from the RTA to try to resolve the issue.

Nik doesn’t know what he would do if he had to get rid of his dogs. They have been his best friends.

(*Name changed for anonymity)

Why we need a good reason before tenancies can be ended

August 27, 2021

My husband and I have been in our current rental property on for more than three years and always paid our rent on time.  My husband was diagnosed with a serious illness a couple of months ago.  With so much happening in our lives, we didn’t realise that the end our current lease was coming up.  We had just come home from the hospital when I opened my emails and saw a Notice to Leave Without Grounds sitting there.  My heart sank in my chest.  I couldn’t believe this was happening to us on top of everything else that we’ve been going through.

I called the agent straight away and asked if maybe there had been a mistake.  We had always paid our rent on time and looked after the property, so I couldn’t understand how this could be happening. He told us it was not a mistake, that the landlord didn’t want to renew our lease.  I immediately started looking for other rental properties and putting in applications, but we kept getting knocked back.

I was starting to panic, so I got back in touch with the property manager, tried to explain my husband’s situation to him and asked if we could be given more time.  The agent said he would speak to the landlord for us and then came back, saying we could have another three months strictly – no more no less – but only if we agreed to pay an extra $175 per week! (more…)