Industry urges trials before landlords stripped of rental rights

A peak management rights body is pushing for trials of controversial rental reforms before they are imposed across Queensland.

The Palaszczuk government is introducing a comprehensive makeover of tenancy laws following widespread community consultation which identified safety and security, protection against domestic violence and protections if renting with pets as key areas for reform.

ARAMA chief executive Trevor Rawnsley says his association “strongly opposes” the proposed reforms and argues a 12-month trial in social housing would demonstrate whether they are “fair and effective”.

The changes follow 135,000 responses to the government’s invitation for feedback from the rental sector, which covers more than one in three households across the state. The government is proposing a staged implementation of changes and is seeking input into a Regulatory Impact Statement over the next six weeks.

Rawnsley has joined the Real Estate Institute of Queensland in arguing the reforms are flawed. He advocates testing them on the government’s own tenants before they are unleashed on the wider market.

“The majority of these reforms will strip back the rights of landlords and put our members, the majority of whom are on-site letting agents, in an unfavourable position despite already managing rental issues effectively,” he said.

“As the biggest landlord in Queensland, let’s see the government introduce these reforms to social housing first before impacting Queensland’s private rental market.”

The REIQ has described the changes as a “slap in the face to everyday mum-and-dad property owners”, chief executive Antonia Mercorella arguing they will erode the rights of landlords and make property investment less appealing, causing investment levels to drop.

Mr Rawnsley says the biggest concern is the abolition of a landlord’s right to not renew a tenancy agreement at the end of its agreed term.

“Ending a tenancy fairly should require mutual agreement – this means the retention of fixed term leases and the equal opportunity for any party to end a tenancy of a fixed term agreement,” he said.

“The proposed reform would allow a tenant to remain in tenancy for as long as they wanted to unless the landlord could establish approved grounds prescribed by law. These grounds should include having a fixed term end date.

“We also believe the notice to end a tenancy should be equal. Currently it is two months for landlords and two weeks for tenants. It should be four weeks for both – this would be fair.”

Mr Rawnsley has slated the loss of a landlord’s right to refuse pets or to be given a say on any modifications to a rental property.

“We understand the importance of pets, but landlords should be able to restrict the cohabitation of pets unless the tenant has obtained consent – and this isn’t something government should be mandating,” he said.

“We strongly oppose the introduction of a tenant right to make modifications to a rental property without the landlord’s consent. Just like having a pet, there should be written approval from the landlord or landlord’s agent.”

And he argues the government’s proposal to allow domestic violence to be grounds for ending a tenancy could leave landlords out of pocket.

“ARAMA is supportive of measures to protect people experiencing domestic and family violence, however reducing the financial obligations of the tenancy leaves a landlord in greater financial risk – and this is not something we support.

“This could leave a property owner with seven days’ notice before having a vacant property, loss of income and having to pay early re-letting costs.”

ARAMA does, though, support moves to introduce minimum housing standards for rental accommodation with enhanced provisions for repairs and maintenance.

“We agree and applaud the government for establishing a set of minimum housing standards provided that they are in line with what the market requires,” said Rawnley.

“One of the key advantages of management rights is that on-site letting agents operate in well maintained community title schemes and repairs and maintenance are preventative and market-driven.”

The state government claims the reforms will provide greater certainty for tenants, landlords and property managers, allowing tenants to feel safe while introducing safeguards to protect landlords’ investments.

Housing minister Mick de Brenni said: “The Palaszczuk government will deliver lifesaving reforms that see minimum standards adhered to, that keep Queenslanders safe, healthy and happy in their homes.”

ARAMA stands for the Australian Resident Accommodation Managers Association, a membership based, not-for-profit body which represents the interests of management rights owners.

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