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Apr 18, 2024

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Significant changes to residential tenancy laws passed through parliament this week heralding a strengthening of tenants rights as they relate to residential leases. The following key changes will impact residential tenancies:

  1. Tenants will be allowed to keep pets and the property owner will only be able to refuse in certain circumstances.
  2. Tenants will be able to make minor modifications to the property without permission from the owner.
  3. Tenants may take an owner to court if they can demonstrate the owner has acted with reciprocity against a tenant.
  4. Rent increases are limited to once annually.
  5. The process of bond disposals can be commenced by either tenant or landlord.
  6. Disputes will mostly be heard by the Commissioner of Consumer Protection rather than the Magistrate’s Court.
  7. Rent bidding will be banned.

Overall, the changes are moderate and align with tenancies laws in other states and territories. Importantly, the changes stop short of prohibiting ‘without grounds terminations’, a silly phrase used to describe circumstances where a tenant requests a further lease term after the end of a fixed term and the landlord refuses without giving a reason.

REIWA conducted a survey into this particular element of the tenancy laws with an astonishing 61 percent of the 6,000-odd landlords surveyed saying they’d ‘consider selling’ the property if ‘without grounds terminations’ were prohibited. Given a fixed term lease has a clear end date, neither party should anticipate that an additional lease or reversion to a ‘periodic lease’ is assured. You don’t have to give a reason to end a fixed term agreement in any other circumstance, even a marriage!

At a time where supply of rental homes are at crisis point across Australia, new laws that actively undermine the encouragement of supply risks further disincentivizing the main cohort of property investors; unsophisticated, family investors the majority of whom own one additional property other than their home.

Given family investors provide 9 in every 10 rentals in WA, we cannot afford to discourage them.