Rental reforms pass Qld parliament

A new law providing more rights to tenants has been passed in Queensland parliament.
A new law providing more rights to tenants has been passed in Queensland parliament.

Legislation has passed in Queensland parliament to provide more rights to tenants ending leases, stopping evictions without grounds, and to have pets within rental properties.

The Housing Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 was voted through on Thursday after parliamentary debate and amendments proposed by the Greens throughout the week.

The new laws enact minimum quality standards and extend protection for renters who have experienced domestic and family violence.

All Queensland rental properties must meet standards for safety, security and functionality, including accessible windows and doors having functioning latches, fixtures and fittings.

They also disallow property owners from issuing a notice to leave 'without grounds' providing tenants with more certainty.

Tenants can end their interest in a lease with seven days' notice if they are unable to safely continue due to domestic and family violence reasons, and minister for housing Leanne Enoch says the laws move to protect the rights of renters.

"Queenslanders rely on safe, secure and affordable housing and we're delivering on our election commitments to modernise Queensland's rental laws and improve confidence in the rental market," she said.

"About 34 per cent of Queensland households rent and these new laws provide a strong, balanced approach that protects the rights of renters and rental property owners, while improving stability in the rental market."

Extensive consultation was conducted with 135,000 responses received to the Open Doors to Renting Reform consultation, while 15,000 responses were received to the regulatory impact statement.

If a renter requests to keep a pet, a rental property owner must have reasonable grounds to refuse and respond in writing to the request within 14 days.

Pets cannot be kept if the property is unsuitable and if keeping the pet would breach laws or by-laws, and the legislation clarifies that fair wear and tear in the property does not include pet damage.

But the laws have been met with some criticism from the Greens and the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ), warning that the legislation imposes onerous requirements for property owners and their contractual rights.

The REIQ says the laws provide a balanced position on tenancy reform but the pendulum has swung distinctly in favour of tenants.

"Property owners have lost the right to end a periodic tenancy by providing notice. Tenants will however retain this right," REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella said.

"Unless owners can establish limited prescribed grounds (such as the sale of the property) they will never be able to terminate a periodic tenancy.

"Tenancy laws need to be fair and balanced, and support the entire rental market. We can't have onerous legislation that strips owners of their rights and undermines their right to effectively manage an asset that they've worked hard to acquire."

Greens MP Amy MacMahon also moved an amendment for all property investor MPs to excuse themselves from debate due to conflict of interest, however it was voted down.

She said in lieu of Queensland's housing crisis there is a growing divide between those who own properties and those who do not.

"If you think this bill strikes the right balance, you have no idea what Queensland renters are going through," she said.

"It's unacceptable to have MP's who directly benefit from skyrocketing rents and lax evictions laws to be allowed to take part in this debate or vote on this bill."

Australian Associated Press