7 recent changes to residential tenancies in Queensland
By Helen Wu, Matt Dolan and Sarah Salesse
Since 2021, the Queensland Government has introduced multi-stage rental law reform with the aim of improving safety, security, and certainty for the Queensland rental market.
In October 2021, the Housing Legislation Amendment Act (Qld) was passed to amend the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act (Qld) and commenced staged changes to residential tenancy laws. Just this month, more of the changes came into effect.
Here, we provide the seven recent changes to Queensland residential tenancies you should be aware of as a property manager or owner and the possible upcoming changes to keep an eye out for.
1. Domestic and family violence protections
From 20 October 2021, a tenant experiencing domestic and family violence can terminate their interest in a tenancy agreement with seven days’ notice or choose to stay at the property and change the locks without the owner or property manager’s consent.
To terminate the tenancy agreement, the tenant’s notice must include supporting evidence (such as a protection order or a domestic and family violence report). On receipt of the tenant’s notice and supporting evidence, the tenant must be allowed to vacate immediately.
If there are remaining co-tenants, the owner or property manager must wait a minimum of seven days but not more than 14 days after the vacating tenant’s interest in the tenancy ends to notify the remaining tenant(s) the vacating tenant has ended their interest. The vacating tenant will not be responsible for –
- any costs associated with ending the agreement or their interest
- any goods left behind in the property, or
- any costs incurred to relet the property.
If a tenant changes the locks or access code to the property due to domestic and family violence, they must provide the owner or property manager with a copy of the key or code (unless it is not required by the owner or property manager).
Penalties apply to property managers and owners who give a key or access code to another person without the tenant’s permission or who fail to keep a vacating tenant’s details confidential.
2. Ending tenancy fairly
From 1 October 2022, the way tenancies can be ended was also changed, including:
- Removal of ‘without grounds’ as a reason to end a tenancy. Prior to the changes, a property owner could give a tenant a notice to leave under either a fixed term tenancy or periodic tenancy and request the tenant to vacate the premises without any reason at the end of the fixed term agreement or the end of the periodic term. Now, if a tenant’s lease has rolled into a ‘periodic tenancy’, a property owner will no longer be able to issue a notice to leave without grounds and will have limited grounds to ask a tenant to vacate.
- New grounds for property owners to end tenancies (with two months’ notice and not before a fixed term ends) including –
- the end of a fixed-term agreement – a fixed term agreement may be ended at the end of the term if a notice to leave for the end of the fixed term agreement is issued to the tenant
- where the owner requires the property to be vacant to undertake demolition or redevelopment, or to undertake significant repairs or renovations to the property, or
- change of use or sale (or preparation for sale) of the property which requires vacant possession.
- New grounds for tenants to end tenancies (with only 14 days’ notice), including –
- where the property is not in good repair
- where the property owner does not comply with a repair order, or
- where the property does not comply with the minimum housing standards.
Tenants can continue to end an agreement ‘without grounds’ and both tenants and property owners must provide appropriate notice for the reason they are ending the agreement.
It is important for developers and property owners to note, as of 1 October 2022, it is no longer possible to end a fixed tenancy early where you have signed a contract to sell your property or where you or a relative need to occupy the property. The tenancy can only end at the end of the fixed term agreement and with two months’ prior notice to the tenant. A property manager or owner must not offer to rent or rent the property for six months from the date the tenancy ends on grounds of sale, change of use, or owner occupation. Penalties apply to owners and property managers who fail to comply.
3. Keeping pets
From 1 October 2022, property owners can only reject a tenant’s application to keep pets at the property under limited circumstances.
However, property owners can impose reasonable conditions which if breached will be deemed a breach of the tenancy agreement. The changes to the rental laws also make clear that damage to the property caused by a pet is excluded from normal fair wear and tear and entitles a property owner to seek compensation from the bond paid by the tenant.
Where an owner does not respond to a tenant’s request for a pet within 14 days or the response does not comply with the legislation, the tenant’s request will be deemed to be approved by the owner. Owners and property managers should ensure applications from tenants for pets are responded to in a prompt manner and with consideration to the circumstances of the tenant.
From 1 October 2022, a tenant can apply to the Queensland Civil Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) for a repair order if the property requires repair and the repair has not been undertaken in a reasonable time.
A repair order granted by QCAT attaches to the property until it has been complied with and does not expire at the end of a tenancy or on the sale of a property.
Property owners must then disclose any outstanding repair orders in the tenancy agreement. The Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) will be provided with a copy of the repair order by QCAT and will investigate where a repair order is not complied with. Failure to comply with the repair order is an offence under the legislation, incurring a financial penalty for the offence and additional penalties for each week the offence continues.
5. Condition report
From 1 October 2022, tenants have seven days to complete and return the entry condition report after first entering the property, rather than the prior three days to complete.
6. Rent increase frequency limit
The most recent changes to residential tenancies came into effect from 1 July 2023 where the ability for owners and property managers to increase a property’s rent changed from once every six months to once every 12 months for new and existing tenancy agreements. Any rent increase after 1 July 2023 is only payable by a tenant if at least 12 months has passed since the last rent increase.
Interestingly, the reforms did not introduce a limit on how much the rent can increase. Currently, the only state which imposes a cap on the rent increase is the Australian Capital Territory.
During a fixed term agreement, the rent can only be increased if –
- the agreement allows for the increase
- the agreement sets out the amount of the rent increase or how it will be calculated
- the tenant is given at least two months' notice in writing for a general tenancy (and four weeks’ notice for a rooming accommodation agreement), and
- it has been at least 12 months since the tenancy started or since the last increase in rent.
This limit will apply for the duration of a tenancy or if at least one tenant remains in the same property when a new tenancy agreement is entered into. The effect of this change is any fixed tenancy agreement which is inconsistent with the new rules will be void to the extent of the inconsistency.
The Queensland Government is currently consulting with various stakeholders and the community to consider if the limit should be applied to the specific property instead of an individual tenancy agreement or tenant. This is to prevent property owners increasing the rent more frequently than once a year, even where there is a change of tenant within the year.
7. Minimum housing standards
Minimum housing standards will apply to new tenancies entered into from 1 September 2023 and for all tenancies from 1 September 2024.
The minimum housing standards introduced by the reforms include requirements under two categories – safety and security, and reasonable functionality. Minimum housing standards require all properties subject to tenancies to include the following –
- the premises to be weatherproof and structurally sound
- fixtures and fittings to be in good repair and not likely to cause injury to a person
- locks on windows and doors
- the premises to be free of vermin, damp, and mould
- privacy coverings
- adequate plumbing and drainage
- connection to water supply for hot and cold water suitable for drinking
- functioning kitchen and laundry facilities (where supplied).
Property managers and owners must ensure their properties and any inclusions comply with the minimum housing standards at the start and throughout the tenancy. Repairs required to be made to a property to comply with the minimum housing standards will be classified as emergency repairs and tenants will have the right to follow the process for emergency repairs under their tenancy agreement. This includes that a tenant may authorise emergency repairs to the value of four week’s rent which must be reimbursed by the landlord.
What other changes are expected?
The Queensland government is currently reviewing feedback from public consultation for further rental reform in the following areas –
- installing modifications
- minor personalisation changes
- balancing privacy and access
- improving bond process
- fairer fees and charges
- limits on the frequency of rent increases.
How do these changes affect you?
Property managers, owners and developers should be aware there have been significant changes to residential tenancy laws in Queensland which may affect any current marketing or future development plans. If you are unsure whether these changes impact you, please contact one of our Real Estate team members.
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