It’s been more than 10 years since WA’s tenancy legislation was updated1, and plenty has happened in that time. To address the needs of WA’s changing tenancy market, the state government is proposing a number of changes that are aimed at providing greater stability and security to tenants.
Amanda Kroczek, Momentum Wealth’s Residential Property Management Department Manager, takes a look at some of these proposed changes.
Tenants will generally be allowed to have pets
Under the proposed changes, tenants will generally be able to own pets. Landlords who don’t want pets on their property will have to apply to the Commissioner for Consumer Protection and have a valid reason for their objection. For example, if they feel that the pet poses an unacceptable risk to health and safety.
Currently, REIWA is advocating for landlords to be able to negotiate conditions around pets such as the number and size of pets, as well as additional bond, cleaning, and repair requirements.
Tenants will be able to make minor property modifications
Tenants will be able to make minor modifications to the rental premises (for example, putting hooks on a wall) and the landlord will only be able to refuse consent on certain grounds.
There’s two categories outlined for modifications:
- Those that can be made with advice to the landlord but without consent, such as the installation of picture hooks, LED light bulbs, and changing of shower heads;
- Those that require consent, including painting or modifications for disabilities such as grab rails (noting, however, that consent cannot be unreasonably refused).
In some instances, the landlord may be able to impose reasonable conditions, such as requiring changes to be carried out by a contractor and for the property to be returned to its original condition upon vacating.
Rent increases limited to once every 12 months
Currently in WA, rents can be increased every six months. It’s been proposed to limit rent rises to once a year, bringing WA in line with many eastern states. This change is designed to provide tenants with more certainty over a longer period of time.
Rent bidding to be prohibited
The practice of rent bidding will be prohibited, meaning that landlords and property managers won’t be able to pressure or encourage tenants to offer more than the advertised rent. However, tenants will still be able to offer more rent if they choose. This proposed change also means that rents will have to be advertised as a fixed amount and not as a range.
Bond release to be streamlined
Under the current system, all parties need to approve the bond disposal request before it can be released. If consent from one party isn’t able to be obtained, an application is then made to the Magistrates Court for its release.
The proposed changes aim to streamline the process. Landlords and tenants can either apply for the release of bond money separately, or via a joint agreement. If one party applies for the release of the bond and the other party doesn’t respond within 14 days, the bond will be released according to the first request. If there’s a disagreement about the bond, the Commissioner for Consumer Protection will make the decision, not the Magistrates Court.
In addition to bond disputes, it’s proposed that any other disagreements relating to pets and minor modifications also be handled by the Commissioner for Consumer Protection, with the Magistrates Court to retain jurisdictions for all other matters.
Preservation of ‘without grounds’ terminations
Importantly, the ability to terminate a tenancy at the lease expiry, or during a periodic tenancy without grounds, is being retained. This means that landlords can still take vacant possession of their property once it is no longer subject to a fixed-term lease agreement. This is good news for investors as most other states have removed this right from property owners.
Watch this space
With rapid population growth and a vacancy rate of just 0.7% in June 2023 (REIWA), Perth is in desperate need of rental housing. It’s important to strike the right balance to ensure that proposed changes do not discourage much-needed private investment in housing.
The proposed changes are expected to be debated in parliament this year, with the revised legislation coming into effect in the second half of 2024. So right now, it’s a case of watch this space. We’ll keep you updated with further changes as they happen.
1Government of Western Australia, Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, ‘Commissioner’s Blog: Review of WA tenancy laws coming soon’, www.commerce.wa.gov.au/announcements/commissioners-blog-review-wa-tenancy-laws-coming-soon