The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Act) is currently undergoing a significant review as part of the Victorian Government’s extensive Fairer Safer Housing initiative. The proposed amendments contained within the review will have an impact on both caravan and residential park residents and operators.
Caravan parks are regulated by the Act and the Residential Tenancies (Caravan Parks and Movable Dwellings Registration and Standards) Regulations 2010. Residents are covered by either Part 4 or Part 4A of the Act:
- Part 4: this applies to residents who lease the site of their dwelling from the park owner.
- Part 4A: this applies to residents who own their own caravan or dwelling and enter into a site agreement with the park, to rent the site on which their home is located.
The Act outlines the residency rights and duties of people staying in caravan parks and provides for the regulation of caravan parks and movable dwellings.
In June 2015, the release of a consultation paper, Laying the Groundwork, outlined the Victorian rental market and sought public comment on the sector. From late 2015 to late 2016, public consultation was sought regarding rental housing issues, with a particular focus on protections for people living in caravan parks and residential parks.
In January 2017, a public options paper outlining the outcomes of public consultation from Laying the Groundwork was released for final discussion. While the public options paper noted that reform options specifically relating to caravan and residential parks will be addressed separately at a later date, parks residents and operators, as parties to tenancy agreements under the Act, will continue to have access to the services and mechanisms for residential tenancies disputes and, accordingly, will be impacted by any proposed amendments to the Act.
Some of the proposed options for amendment include:
- Increased notice period for termination for disruption: the notice period to vacate due to disruption would be increased from the same day to seven days, with VCAT discretion to extend the period to 14 days.
- Notice to leave can be served on resident for visitor’s serious violence: if a resident’s visitor commits a serious act of violence or endangers the safety of any person, the landlord or operator would be able to serve a notice to leave on the visitor and, if appropriate, also on the resident.
- Expand list of urgent repairs: the current list of urgent repairs would be updated to include any specific features that may be imposed in the context of vacant properties, for example, to include any minimum standards that may be introduced associated with cleanliness, energy and water efficiency and fitness for habitation.
Subsequent to the publication of the public options paper, on 8 October 2017, the Victorian Government announced an initial set of reforms which the Government proposes to introduce.
Some of the key proposed changes include:
- Rental bidding: agents will have to advertise properties using a single price and, along with landlords, will not be able to solicit rental bids from prospective tenants.
- Removal of the 120-day ‘no specified reason’ notice to vacate: landlords will have to give a reason to terminate a tenancy.
- Keeping pets: tenants will have the right to keep pets with the landlord’s written consent first. The landlord will only be able to refuse consent if it is reasonable to do so.
- Tenant reimbursement for urgent repairs: when a tenant is out of pocket for undertaking urgent repairs, landlords will have to reimburse them within seven days, instead of the current period of 14 days.
- Automatic bond repayments within 14 days: Either party to a tenancy will be able to apply for all or part of the bond without the other party’s agreement. Disputes must be lodged within 14 days; if no dispute is raised, the bond will automatically be released to the applicant.
- Tenants to more easily make minor modifications to the property: a landlord will not be able to unreasonably refuse consent if a tenant asks to make minor modifications.
The above proposed reforms have not been finalised. The Victorian Government is in the process of finalising the reforms and amendments to the Act and it is anticipated that the reforms will be introduced into Parliament by mid-2018.
It is important for park operators to keep on top of the reforms as they will have a significant impact on the rights and obligations of both the operator, as landlord, and tenants when passed by Parliament.
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