Updated: Aug 2
How the new Residential Tenancy Act changes will impact Strata Residents
The long-awaited review into the WA Residential Tenancies Act 1987, (RTA) is coming to fruition.
It’s no secret rental laws in WA needed a makeover. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the steepest decline in home-ownership rates over a 25-year period were for people aged 25-35 years, an age group typically entering the housing market.
The growth in the trend of people renting for longer and renting for life has necessitated a review of the regulation of the rental sector. With 45% of WA residents living in strata being tenants (equating to 115,464 rented residences) now more than ever, legislation needs to be transparent, accountable and fair.
Although the review into the RTA is ongoing, the WA Government changes to the Act will be implemented in a phased approach.
The most notable changes proposed by Consumer Protection WA in the first phase will include:
Tenants will be allowed to keep pets unless there are reasonable grounds for the landlord to refuse;
Rent increases will be limited to once every 12 months;
Tenants will be able to make minor modifications without landlord consent;
Landlords and tenants will be able to separately apply for release of the bond;
Most bond and pet disputes will be referrable to the Commissioner for Consumer Protection instead of the Magistrates Court; and
Landlords and agents will not be allowed to encourage rent bidding.
After a public consultation process that included over 350 stakeholders, Consumer Protection will now draft the proposed changes to the tenancy laws. Consultation will continue with key stakeholder organisations (like Strata Community Association WA) to ensure the changes are implemented effectively, and don’t conflict or limit established processes and legislation in WA.
The new laws will make the ability for tenants to have animals much easier with the requirements for tenants to first ask for permission before bringing their animals home and landlords needing to have reasonable grounds for their refusal.
There are a couple of things to note here for both landlords and tenants:
A landlord needs to provide their response within 14 days or it is considered having given consent.
Scheme-specific pet by-laws and the Strata Titles Act 1985 need to be considered in conjunction with the RTA when considering the approval or otherwise of animals.
It is expected that a by-law would be considered a reasonable ground for refusal, however, this may be challenged.
With the introduction of the laws, it will be interesting to see if the by-laws will with stand challenge as a reasonable ground for refusal. It is a good opportunity for strata companies to review any pet by-laws, and to ensure there is clear, valid and enforceable reasoning for refusing the inclusion of animals, in preparation for any requests.
Another recommendation that is looking to be brought in is the ability for tenant to make minor modifications of their property without consent. The modifications need to not impact the structural integrity of the building and be easily reversed.
Whilst this may be a great opportunity for tenants, there are circumstances where the Strata Titles Act 1985 also may impact the ability for these types of modifications to occur. Common property and lot boundaries can be challenging to determine, and inadvertent modification to a neighbouring or common property area could cause issues for all involved.
Additionally, if there is any chance that it could impact the common property, then the strata company will need to be consulted and provide approval.
Overall, the proposed changes to the Residential Tenancy Act will provide greater surety for tenants, however it is important for both tenants and owners to know that approval is not guaranteed on these things, and living in Strata means that there may be other considerations and laws that need to be considered.
For more information, head to the Residential Tenancies Act review page on the Department of Mines, Industry, Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) website.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, the writers are not legal practitioners. It is important to consult with a qualified legal professional or seek appropriate legal advice specific to your situation.