Do you know the residential tenancy laws in your area?

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LANDLORDS are urged to remain compliant with the residential tenancy laws in their respective states to minimise the likelihood of problems.

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Given the importance of proper conduct when managing any tenancy, combined with the fact that about a third of Australians rent property, every state and territory has legislation that governs the manner in which residential tenancies must be managed.

From time to time, the legislation is reviewed and, where deemed necessary, amended.

Western Australia’s residential tenancy legislation was reviewed a few years ago, with close to 100 amendments coming into force from 1 July 2013.

Rent.com.au national landlord services manager Zoran Tomich said the Victorian government is currently reviewing its residential tenancy legislation:

“One thing that often goes hand in hand with a review of residential tenancy legislation seems to be large increases in fines for procedural breaches in relation to the management of property,” he said.

“The legislative requirements of residential tenancy laws – and the penalties for breaching those laws – apply equally to private landlords, real estate agents and even tenants.”

Typically, where legislation introduces large increases in fines for a wide range of possible breaches, the step that usually follows is enforcement.

Oct 2015 case study: Landlords attract significant fines

If we look to Western Australia as an example, when the amended residential tenancy legislation came into effect on the 1st of July, 2013, it brought with it large increases in fines. The maximum penalty for certain breaches increased from $4,000 to $20,000.

As an industry, real estate agents quickly familiarised themselves with the new requirements as part of their daily operational and licensing requirements.  Private landlords remained, as they are throughout Australia, largely unaware – both of their legal obligations in managing a tenancy and of the enormous number of newly introduced amendments to the legislation.

Initially there was somewhat of a reprieve but recently, a number of breaches by two WA landlords have attracted significant fines.  In October last year, a Perth private landlord was fined $24,000 and a second was fined $7,200 in March of this year.  The real lesson to learn here, is that breaches are easily avoidable.

Following proper procedures relating to communication, documentation, inspecting and maintaining the property and handling of bond and rental money all help landlords to remain compliant with the residential tenancy laws in their state and minimise the likelihood of problems.

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