The rental industry in Western Australia is undergoing changes as the government seeks to reform the Residential Tenancies Act. These changes aim to provide renters with better protection while giving landlords clearer guidelines.

The Residential Tenancies Act, which dates back to 1987, is undergoing significant changes that will improve tenant protections, clarify landlord responsibilities, and streamline the process of bond returns and dispute resolution.

The WA Government announced its plans to progress its reforms of tenancy reforms in a statement on 26 May 2023.

What are these changes? Let’s explore the specifics!

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read):

  • Major amendments are being drafted to the Residential Tenancies Act 1987
  • Changes include banning rent bidding, limiting rent increases to once a year, and allowing pets with landlord approval.
  • Tenants can make minor modifications to their rental property, and bond returns will be streamlined.
  • An additional $4.5 million funding boost will support tenant advocacy and education services.

WA bids farewell to rent bidding.

WA will end the practice of rent bidding, which allowed landlords and property managers to pressure tenants into paying more than the advertised rent. This new law prioritises fairness and transparency in the rental market, eliminating coercion and ensuring that tenants will not be required to pay extra fees.

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The frequency of rent increases is also receiving a makeover.

As per the new reforms, the frequency of rent increases will be reduced. Rent can now be increased only once a year, which is good news for families struggling with high rental costs.

But what about pets?

In most cases, tenants will now be able to bring their pets to their rental properties. Of course, landlords retain a say in the matter, but they will require approval from the Commissioner for Consumer Protection and reasonable grounds to decline consent. So, if you have a furry friend, it’s cause for celebration!

Renters can make certain minor modifications to their rental.

As a renter, you will be allowed to make minor changes to the rental property. Landlords can only deny your request for specific reasons, but otherwise, you have the freedom to create a cosy and comfortable living space while still respecting your landlord’s investment.

Bond returns are getting an overhaul.

Changes are being made to the way bond returns are handled. In the near future, tenants and landlords will have the option to apply for bond payments separately at the end of a tenancy. This new process will make things easier for all parties involved. Additionally, any issues regarding bonds, pets, or minor modifications will be resolved quickly by the Commissioner for Consumer Protection.

An additional $4.5 million funding boost.

The WA Government has recognised that tenants may need assistance, especially in the current rental market. Therefore, they have decided to provide an extra $4.5 million annually to the Tenant Advocacy and Education Services (TAES) program. This increase in funding is a 35% rise, bringing it back to pre-2016 levels. As a result, advocates and legal centres will be accessible to provide advice and support whenever needed.

But not everything is changing.

Although some things are changing, not everything is. The government has decided to keep the termination provisions for “without grounds” as they are currently written. This means that the notice periods of 60 days for periodic leases and 30 days for fixed leases will stay the same.

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So why are these changes taking place?

The reason behind these changes is to address the challenges that tenants face in the current rental market and promote fairness for everyone involved. The government also aims to encourage more investors in the market and ensure a steady housing supply.

These reforms aim to strike a balance between granting tenants additional rights and providing certainty for landlords. By creating a rental landscape that is fair, transparent, and supportive, the reforms to tenancy laws promise positive impacts on tenants and their families. Commerce Minister Sue Ellery has highlighted the benefits of these reforms, including an end to rent bidding and fewer rent increases, which will provide financial relief to many families.

The Housing Minister emphasised the need for housing reforms, with $2.6 billion invested in housing, lands, and homelessness measures. An additional $750 million will go towards stamp duty concessions, changes to Keystart loans, and expanding the housing construction workforce. 

Consumer Protection will consult with key stakeholders to refine the implementation details of the proposed changes.