With the Victorian state election coming up on 26 November 2022, we wrote to representatives from Labor, the Liberals and the Greens to ask their position on a range of key rental issues:
- ending no cause terminations,
- tackling excessive rent increases, and
- expanding energy efficiency minimum standards.
For each question we provided some context about why this issue matters and the response that Better Renting would want to see. We have reproduced this below, along with responses from the relevant party spokespeople.
We received quite different responses, and we have not scored them or evaluated them against one another. However, we hope that by obtaining and presenting this information we can help you to take the responses into account as election day draws nearer.
Does your party support ending no cause terminations, including ‘end of a fixed term’?
Better Renting supports the abolition of no cause terminations, including ‘end of a fixed term’. Instead, termination should require a good cause. No cause terminations mean tenants lose their homes without justification. They mean that renters are worried about exercising their legal rights. Although Victoria has ended one form of no cause terminations, they are still allowed at the end of the first fixed term. In contrast, the ACT is acting to abolish these terminations altogether.
The recent Residential Tenancy reforms include measures to improve security of tenure by requiring:
- rental providers to give a valid reason for ending a rental agreement
- rental providers to attach documentary evidence specified by the Director CAV to notices to vacate, for example a building permit
- VCAT to consider the reasonableness and proportionality before issuing possession
- a ‘five strikes’ rule to give renters more opportunities to remedy rent arrears in a 12-
While Victoria has made some reforms to no cause terminations, we know it’s still too easy for Victorian renters to be forced to leave their homes. Our policy to increase security of tenure for renters includes removing the ability for no cause terminations to be issued at the end of the first fixed term, and further restricting how a rental provider can terminate a lease for sale of the property or if they wish to move in.
How does your party propose to tackle rising rents?
Better Renting supports measures to directly cap rent increases, as well as efforts to increase housing supply more generally, especially of affordable housing for people on low-incomes. We recognise there are various ways to promote rental affordability, and that a range of responses is needed.
The government’s reforms included significant changes to address the cost of maintaining a tenancy, including:
- limiting the time period between rent increases to no more than once per year for all housing types, and
- for fixed-term residential rental agreements, requiring that the amount or method of calculation for an increase is set out in the rental agreement (for example, no more than X per cent in a 12-month period)
Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) is Victoria’s rental market regulator under the Residential Tenancies Act, with specific powers relating to assessments of excessive rent increases. Renters can seek an excessive rent review from the Director Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) after 30 days of receiving a notice of rent increase from a rental provider. On the receipt of an application, the Director, CAV, will carry out an investigation and provide the renter and the residential rental provider with a written report.
The Greens propose introducing controls on rent increases to limit how much rent can be increased each year. Our proposal would limit rent increases to the rate of the Victorian wage price index, which is currently 2.5%. We also want to see a massive increase in new public and affordable housing in Victoria. Our plan is to build 200,000 new public and affordable homes over the next 20 years, and we’ll be releasing more detail on this in the coming weeks.
Do you support expanding existing minimum standards for energy efficiency?
Victoria led Australia in introducing a requirement for fixed energy-efficient heaters from March 2023. However, this standard does not go far enough to provide for healthy homes. A standard should require ceiling insulation and efficient electric reverse-cycle systems that can provide both heating and cooling.
The new rental laws also introduced a range of protections for renters including the introduction of rental minimum standards. The rental minimum standards, which apply to all rental agreements entered into after 29 March 2021, require rental properties to have a minimum 2-star energy efficient fixed heater in the main living area.
The Victorian Government will continue to assess and monitor the adequacy of the minimum standards to ensure they are meeting the needs of renters.
We know that despite the introduction of minimum standards for rental properties, including heating, too many rental properties in Victoria are substandard. Rental properties tend to be older, less energy efficient, and harder to keep at a comfortable temperature, and renters are often left sweltering in summer and freezing in winter. The Greens will strengthen the minimum standards to include ceiling insulation and draught proofing for window and door gaps, increase the energy efficiency standards for heating from 2 stars to 4 stars and remove gas heating as an option for the heating standard, and mandate air conditioning or alternative form of cooling.
The Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs, Roma Britnell MP, declined to provide a specific response to each question. Instead, her office advised:
"...these are complex topics requiring involved and wide-ranging consultation....We are, of course, aware of the broad issues impacting tenants and absolutely agree that changes are required. We note that the Andrews Labor Government are currently undertaking a review into the property market that covers these sorts of issues, but it is horribly over due to be tabled. As this review is virtually done, it is prudent that we wait to see what the recommendations are before we look to announce policy. That said, if elected we would look to finalise and release the review ASAP following the election, once we have taken office and take stock of where things are at."