The state government has introduced new tenancy law reforms, in an attempt, it says, to improve the lives of Western Australian renters.

The legislation is expected to come into effect in stages, beginning mid-2024.

Under the new reforms, rent increases will be restricted to once every 12 months.

A landlord will only be allowed to refuse a pet under certain circumstances. These include strata laws or with approval of the commissioner. The pet bond will be expanded to allow landlords to claim for damage caused by a pet or to undertake cleaning needed because of a pet.

The size of modification that a tenant is allowed to make will change, with a landlord only being allowed to refuse in certain circumstances. There will be a list of prescribed minor modifications that may include things like fitting flyscreens, installing a water-saving shower head or building and growing a vegetable garden. The Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA), which advocated on behalf of property owners in the lead up to the bill, said it is working with the government on this list.

Landlords advertising a rental property will be required to state a fixed amount for rent instead of a price range or ‘offers from’. Rent bidding will be banned.

A new process to release security bonds when a tenant moves out will mean both tenant and landlord can apply for the release of the bond. In cases where the two parties do not agree on the bond release amounts, the commissioner will decide.

Tenants will be able to approach the court for assistance if they feel a landlord is taking retaliatory action against them for enforcing their tenancy rights.

Impact on property investors

For landlords, the new reforms are a mixed bag. In some cases, landlords are better served.

The new pet rules will help landlords manage potential damage caused by pets, where previously the pet bond could only be used for fumigation. Now, on top of the bond being allowed for cleaning and other damage, the bill places responsibility back on the tenant in cases where a pet has become a nuisance or caused damage to property.

The need for tenants to ‘make good’ on modifications when they move out was a key component for REIWA. Tenants will need to return the property to its original condition at the end of the tenancy, unless otherwise agreed with the landlord.

REIWA said it has some concern regarding the implementation of the new dispute resolution process.

REIWA also said owners may be concerned about the retaliatory action allowed by a renter. “Tenants already have the opportunity to take action if they feel their lease has been terminated unfairly, but this new section now provides additional reassurance for tenants if they feel the owner has taken retaliatory action, such as increasing the rent or terminating the lease, in response to them exercising their rights as a tenant,” said REIWA CEO Cath Hart.

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