REIQ: Queensland rental reforms are “unworkable”


The Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) has warned new rental reforms currently before parliament are extreme, unnecessary and unworkable.

Under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024, the Miles Government will attach rent increase limits to the property rather than the tenancy agreement, and allow tenants ask for structural changes to a property and compel an owner to respond in a set timeframe.

REIQ Chief Executive Officer Antonia Mercorella said it was disappointing to see legislative change being touted as the solution to the rental crisis when new supply needed to be encourage.

“This is a radical departure from well-established tenancy law and while it may sound good on paper, it is unworkable in practice,” she said.

“This Bill represents more legislative change that will weaken property investor confidence and put further strain on the rental market.

“We are sceptical about the misleading way some of these reforms are being characterised, such as supposedly stamping out rental bidding, ‘dodgy’ practices, and loopholes for rent increases more than once every 12 months.

“It’s a great way to grab attention during an election year, but the reality is that these are all matters that are already covered by existing tenancy laws.

“Property managers and investors are already prohibited from asking for offers above the listed rent price; it’s actually tenants who have been electing to offer more rent or pay rent in advance to secure a property in a highly competitive rental market – this is a symptom of a lack of supply.”

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REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella.

But Queensland Housing Minister Meaghan Scanlon said the Bill, and the reforms, were about making renting “fairer, safer and easier” for tenants.

Other reforms outlined in the Bill include banning all forms of rent bidding, requiring bond claims to be supported by evidence, protecting renters’ privacy by requiring at least 48 hours notice of entry to a property and setting up a prescribed form to be used to apply for a rental home, with any information collected to be handled securely.

Reletting costs will also be limited and based on how long is left on a fixed-term lease, and renters will have to have a fee-free option available to pay their rent, as well as choie on how they apply for a property.

“More than 600,000 Queensland households rent,” Ms Scanlon said.

“These reforms are about making renting fairer, safer and easier.

“Renters won’t have to find additional money for a new bond when they move, and they won’t have to bid more than advertised on a rental.

“Renters will have their privacy protected and a new code of conduct will stamp out dodgy and unprofessional practices.

“These important protections go alongside cost-of-living support we are rolling out for Queenslander renters to cover things like rent arrears and increases, and this Bill will make sure they can get a home and stay in it.”

Ms Mercorella also expressed concern at proposed new strict time limits to substantiate bond claims within 14 days.

“While we agree that bonds should be returned in a timely manner, a blanket approach is problematic given how difficult it is to access tradespersons or contractors in the current environment to quote or conduct repairs,” she said.

Ms Mercorella said the REIQ welcomed the introduction of a clearer pathway for requesting property modifications relating to accessibility, safety and security. 

These changes complement the minimum housing standards the REIQ advocated for.

“Following a roundtable in 2022, led by the REIQ and Queensland Disability Network (QDN), a joint framework was developed for home accessibility and safety modifications,” she said.

“We look forward to these recommendations being adopted by the government.”

Ms Mercorella said the peak body looked forward to the opportunity to help shape the rental sector Code of Conduct based on the REIQ’s Best Practice Guidelines.

“We see this as an opportunity to improve everyday processes in the rental sector and help create more harmonious relationships between all parties involved in tenancies,” she said.

Summary of Stage 2 Rental law reforms* 

Appointing a head of power to develop:

  • a rental sector Code of Conduct that will apply to tenants, lessors and property managers,
  • a framework for installing modifications to rental properties for accessibility, safety and security,
  • a portable bond scheme to allow renters to transfer their bond when relocating from one rental property to another.

Rent:

  • banning all forms of rent bidding by prohibiting property managers from accepting rental offers above the listing price​,
  • property managers will be prohibited from accepting rent in advance greater than the statutory limits (4 weeks for fixed term agreements),
  • and limiting rent increases to 12-months, attached to the property instead of the tenancy.

Alterations:

  • new provisions setting out the process for the lessor to approve or refuse a tenants request for fixtures to be attached or structural alterations,
  • New right for the tenant to apply to QCAT if the lessor refuses their request.

Bonds:

  • maximum bond limit of 4 weeks’ rent, regardless of weekly rent amount​,
  • any bond claim will be required to be supported by evidence within a strict timeframe​,
  • allowing the use of commercial bond products.

Entry and privacy:

  • entry notice periods will be increased from 24 hours to 48 hours,
  • property managers will only be permitted to enter a property twice per week after either a Notice to Leave or Notice of Intention to Leave is given,
  • introduction of a new ground for entry relating to smoke alarm compliance,
  • prescribed tenancy application and information which can be collected from a tenant, 
  • personal information collected will need to be securely stored and disposed of in accordance with requirements.

Fees and charges:

  • capping re-letting costs based on time remaining on the fixed-term tenancy​,
  • service and water consumption charges must be provided to a tenant within 4 weeks of receipt from service providers, ​
  • tenants will need to be offered at least one fee free method of rent payment,
  • property managers will need to disclose if they are receiving any benefits from third parties that they refer a tenant to.

Additional changes:

  • amendment to domestic and family violence protections, 
  • changes on how to end a short tenancy, 
  • ensuring a community title scheme termination is effective and allowing for better RTA operational improvements.

*Source: REIQ



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