20 Aug 2013

IMPORTANT CHANGES TO THE RESIDENTIALTENANCIES ACT 1987 (WA)

Below is a summary of some of the important changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1987(WA) which came into effect on 1 July 2013.

Jade Lattimore, Associate Director, HHG Legal Group 

  1. New Prescribed Form for Residential Leases

    All written tenancy agreements must be made using the Residential Tenancy Agreement (Form 1AA). A failure to use the prescribed form may result in a penalty of up to $5,000.

    The Landlord cannot include provisions in the Agreement contracting out of the terms or conditions of the Agreement. In other words, the prescribed form cannot be amended. The penalty for contracting out of the prescribed form is $10,000.

    The Landlord and Tenant can agree to include additional clauses specific to the premises but these cannot detract from or diminish the mandatory provisions of the prescribed form.

  2. Property Condition Reports Changes

    Property Condition Reports must now be prepared at both the start and end of tenancies.

    A $5,000 penalty can be levied against a Landlord who fails to prepare a Property Condition Report at either the start of the end of the tenancy. If the Landlord fails to prepare both, then the penalty is up to $10,000.

  3. Emergency Repair Changes

    The Landlord is required to arrange urgent repairs within the prescribed time period. For essential services the prescribed period is 24 hours after the Landlord is made aware of the issue. For all other urgent repairs, the prescribed period is 48 hours after the Landlord is made aware of the issue.

    Essential services include gas, electricity, water supply (including hot water), waste water treatment and a functioning refrigerator (if one was supplied with the premises).

    If the Landlord does not comply with the requirements, the Tenant may take necessary action and the Landlord is liable to reimburse the Tenant the costs incurred.

  4. Minimum Security Standards for Doors and Windows

    Landlord’s have 2 years from 1 July 2013 to bring their rental premises in line with the minimum security standards specified in the Regulations.

    The minimum security standards include:-
    1. deadbolts on all ground level timber doors (where there is no security screen);
    2. locks or latches on all windows; and
    3. porch lights at all front doors.

  5. Holding of Bonds

    A centralized Bond Administrator has been established by the Department for the deposit and disposal of bonds.

    All security bonds must be deposited with the Bond Administrator. For existing tenancies, the Bond must be handed over to the Bond Administrator on renewal of the tenancy or within the prescribed period (whichever is the earlier).

  6. Pet Bond Extended

    The Pet Bond has been extended to apply to all animals capable of carrying parasites (previously only applied to dogs and cats).

    Guide Dogs are excluded.

    A Pet Bond can only be used for fumigation (where required). There has been no amendment to this provision.

  7. Option Fee

    The amount that can be charged by Landlord’s to prospective Tenant’s by way of option fee has been capped.

    For premises with rent of less than $500 per week, the maximum option fee payable is $50. For premises with rent of less than $1200 per week, the maximum option fee payable is $100. For rentals over $1200 per week, the option fee is capped at $1200.

  8. Maintenance of Premises

    The Landlord is not required to maintain or repair, amongst other things:-

    1. a fixture or chattel which the Landlord has advised the Tenant, prior to entering the Agreement, is not working/functioning/operational; and
    2. any fixture or chattel which the Tenant could not reasonably expect would be working/functioning/operational.

  9. Inspections
    The maximum number of property inspections that can be undertaken in any one year is 4.
    The property inspections must be undertaken during “reasonable hours”. Reasonable hours means 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm on Saturday or such other time as agreed between the Landlord and Tenant.
  10. Ending a Fixed Term Lease

    A fixed term lease does not end automatically on the date that the fixed term period expires (“end date”).

    To terminate, either the Landlord or the Tenant must give not less than 30 days notice of the intention to terminate the lease and specify the date on which possession of the premises is to be delivered up (“possession date”) (this cannot be before the end date).

    If notice is not given at least 30 days before the end date, the term of the lease will be extended to be 30 days from the date that notice is given.

    If the notice is given by the Landlord, and the possession date is after the end date, then the Tenant may vacate at any time between the end date and the possession date and is only liable for rent up to the date of vacation and not the possession date.
    If the notice is given by the Tenant, and the possession date is after the end date, then the Tenant is liable for rent up to the possession date whether the Tenant vacates earlier or not.

  11. Rent Increases

    If the same Tenant enters into a new Agreement for the same premises with an increased rent, the increased rent is not payable by the Tenant for the first 30 days of the new tenancy.

    Rent may only be increased during a fixed term tenancy if the Agreement sets out the amount or method that the rent will be increased by during the fixed term.

  12. Costs of Agreement

    The Landlord is solely liable for the costs of the preparation of the Agreement.

  13. Abandoned Documents

    The Landlord must keep any abandoned documents of the kind referred to in the Act for a period of not less than 60 days after the Tenant vacates the premises. The penalty for failure to comply with this requirement is $5,000.

    The Landlord must make reasonable attempts to notify the Tenant that the Landlord is holding abandoned documents during the 60 day period. The penalty for failure to comply with this requirement is $5,000.

    Documents which are prescribed as being required to be kept by the Landlord include:-
    1. official documents;
    2. photographs;
    3. correspondence; and
    4. any other document that can be reasonably expected that a person would want to keep.

    The provisions relating to abandoned goods have not changed.

    If you would like further information in relation to residential tenancies, your rights or obligations please contact our office at reception@hhg.com.au.

    This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice.

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