The new residential tenancy laws were hot news when debated in parliament and eventually passed in October 2021, but not all changes commence immediately. Those changes that do, relate to domestic and family violence (which, in effect, give permanency to the amendments introduced with Covid legislation). The remaining amendments will be implemented in phases (with the dates yet to be set) however we are expecting that some parts of the new legislation will come in during the first half of 2022. There will be further provisions in relation to minimum housing standards for new tenancies from 1st September 2023 and for all tenancies from 1st September 2024.
The changes coming in 2022 that our clients should take note of are those in relation to pets and the ending of a tenancy.
PETS – the amendments introduce a number of reforms in relation to the keeping of pets, but include only limited grounds for refusing pets. What you really need to be conscious of is that a landlord is deemed to have approved a pet if they have not responded to a request within 14 days OR their response is not in the correct form. You will need to ensure that you action any pet request promptly.
Any refusal of a pet request needs to comply with the prescribed grounds. You cannot say “no” because you don’t like pets or certain animals. The days of “no pets allowed” are gone. The prescribed grounds include:
- the property is unsuitable for the proposed pet (for example lack of fencing or open space);
- keeping the pet would breach laws or by-laws;
- keeping the pet would exceed a reasonable number of animals already being kept;
- keeping the pet is likely to cause damage to the premises that could not practicably be repaired for less than the amount of the rental bond;
- keeping the pet would pose an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of a person (for example the pet is venomous);
- the tenant has not agreed to the reasonable conditions; or
- any other ground prescribed by regulation (there are none yet).
The fact that keeping a pet would be in contravention of a body corporate by-law IS a valid ground to refuse a pet, however the matter will become tricky where that by-law is not necessarily enforceable.
As, with most matters, the application of the new pet rules will come down to the facts of the case – what type of pet it is, what are the actual by-laws of the scheme, what are the characteristics of the lot and so forth.
ENDING TENANCIES – the amendments include a number of further specific grounds on which both tenants and owners may end tenancy agreements BUT remove a property owner’s right to terminate a tenancy agreement without grounds. It does need to be remembered that this ground was mainly relevant for periodic tenancies (which are ones that do not have a fixed end date).
If you have a periodic tenancy that you want to end, then there needs to be a reason. The new reasons that an owner can end a tenancy include:
- the sale or preparation for sale of the rental property which requires vacant possession;
- a planned property redevelopment, demolition, significant repair or renovation;
- change of use (e.g. move to short-stay accommodation);
- the owner or a relative needs to occupy the property; or
- serious or significant breach.
There are also new reasons for a tenant to end a tenancy such as:
- the property is not in good repair, is unfit for human habitation;
- a co-tenant has died;
- the owner has not complied with a QCAT repair order; or
- the owner provided false or misleading information about the tenancy agreement or rental property. This will require the tenant to make an application to QCAT within the first 3 months of a tenancy of the tenancy ending.
It is very important to realise that there are now offences in the event of misuse of the notice to leave provisions. For example, if a notice to leave is given because an owner intends to occupy the property themselves, they must do that. It is an offence (50 penalty units) if they offer to let the property as a residential tenancy within 6 months.
As each factual situation is different, please take our comments as general guidance and contact Mahoneys to obtain timely and practical legal advice in relation to any residential tenancy questions that you may have.