The Queensland Government’s rental reform legislation was passed in Parliament today.
Minister for Communities and Housing Leeanne Enoch said the new laws would end ‘without grounds’ evictions and make it easier for Queensland renters to keep a pet.
The new laws will also ensure all Queensland rental properties meet minimum quality standards and extend protections for renters who have experienced domestic and family violence.
The Palaszczuk Government said the legislation is ‘striking the right balance between renters and property owners.’
Advocates from the community sector have welcomed the reforms acknowledging some amendments will improve Queensland renters’ rights.
Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) CEO Aimee McVeigh said that some of the Government’s reforms are an improvement for Queensland’s 1.8 million renters but said more must be done urgently.
“The next stage of rental reforms must happen immediately in light of Queensland’s housing crisis. Renters are competing in unbelievably tight rental markets with vacancy rates below 1 per cent throughout Queensland and, even when they can find a place, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to stay in their home beyond six or twelve months.
“The reality is that the housing market is failing millions of Queenslanders, and government intervention is needed. Tenants need housing security and minimum standards like lighting, ventilation and energy efficiency and these protections must be provided by the law,” said Ms McVeigh.
QCOSS said a key element needed in the Government’s next round of rental reforms is to permit tenants to make minor modifications to their homes.
CEO of Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN), Paige Armstrong, said that private rental is made more difficult for many of their members because of the need for minor modifications to make a property accessible.
“It is disappointing to see that minor modifications have not been included in this round of rental reforms. There are over 900,000 people with disability living in Queensland, and a significant number rent in the private sector.
“It is really important for people with disability and many other people in our community to be able to carry out minor modifications. It helps people feel safe, to maintain their independence and carry out basic day to day tasks.
“Renters with disability have been waiting years for these reforms and we need to see change,” said Ms Armstrong.
Penny Carr, CEO of Tenants Queensland, the state’s tenant advisory specialists, welcomed the completion of this first stage of the reforms, which she said is long overdue and a welcome relief.
“Renters will find it somewhat easier to keep a pet and to have repairs attended to but they will wait until 2024 for minimum standards and will still be subjected to arbitrary evictions. These laws are not ones for a modern Queensland as they don’t offer strong enough protections from unfair evictions,” said Ms Carr.
Ms Carr acknowledged the Government’s commitment to rental reforms saying the changes included a number of positive changes for Queensland renters but overall are still disappointing, falling well short of modernising the laws.
“Our focus will now be to ensure all Queensland renters understand the new laws, how to exercise their rights and meet obligations, without fear of eviction.
“We will be watching the impact of these reforms very closely to advise the government of any negative impacts on Queensland renters, then working hard to achieve greater outcomes in stage two,” said Ms Carr.
Greens MP for South Brisbane, who had proposed her own rental reform Bill, called the Government’s legislation ‘weak’.
“Over the last five months more than a thousand renters have written to their local MP and the Housing Minister urging them to use this opportunity to give renters real protections. Renters came forward and shared heartbreaking story after heartbreaking story of how difficult it is just to get safe and secure rental housing in Queensland,” Ms MacMahon said in a statement today.
Ms MacMahon said that in hearings the Queenslanders with Disability Network had stressed the importance of allowing minor modifications for accessibility.
“For some people living with disability, minor modifications can mean the difference between living independently or not.”
Tenants Queensland had also emphasised that banning landlords from evicting tenants at the end of their lease without reason is critical, Ms MacMahon said.
“Without it, the risk of retaliation by a landlord means tenants don’t enforce what little rights they have.”
Ms MacMahon’s attempt to have MPs with investment properties excuse themselves from the debate due to potential conflict of interest was not supported.
During the debate Minister Enoch confirmed that the Government is committed to progressing Stage 2 of the rental law reforms, and that minor modifications to rental properties would be a priority of the next stage.
“In progressing Stage 2 reforms in the first half of 2022, the Queensland Government will engage with key stakeholders to define the next tranche of issues to be addressed, explore reform options, and design workable solutions and consult on them,” Ms Enoch said.
- Establish minimum standards to ensure all Queensland rental properties meet standards for safety, security and functionality. This includes making sure accessible windows and doors have functioning latches, fixtures and fittings provided in the property are in good repair and do not present a safety risk with normal use, and properties are weatherproof and structurally sound.
- End without grounds evictions and providing appropriate grounds to end a tenancy, including the end of a fixed-term agreement. A rental property owner will not be able to issue a notice to leave ‘without grounds’, which will provide renters with more certainty.
- A renter can end their interest in a lease with seven days’ notice if they are unable to safely continue it because they are experiencing domestic and family violence.
- If a renter requests to keep a pet, a rental property owner must have reasonable grounds to refuse and respond in writing to this request within 14 days. Reasonable grounds include if the property is unsuitable, and if keeping the pet would breach laws or by-laws. Rental property owners can also place reasonable conditions on pet ownership, including that the pet is to be kept outside or that carpets are cleaned and the property is fumigated at the end of a lease. Rent increase is not a reasonable condition. The laws also clarify that fair wear and tear does not include pet damage.
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