Landlord rights: where are they now?

June 12, 2023

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Landlords are the big bad wolf in real estate these days.

They're swiftly becoming renowned for harsh inclines to rental prices at a time when vacancies are alarmingly low and cost-of-living expenses are high.

Plus, interest rates are at their highest in 11 years.

But there's far more to being a landlord than meets the eye - especially when it comes to their dwindling rights when it comes to issues such as pets.

And while tenants won't want to hear this: landlords too are struggling to pay grocery and utility bills right now with a rental increase a smart option for them.

Let's take a look.

Landlord rights: tenants and pets

We're starting with the toughest and most discussed tenancy issue out there.

And again, it's important to note that most landlords aren't animal haters.

Yet like all property investors, they do own their rental property and they do want it to be cared for - and having a pet can result in odours, scratches, and worse throughout a home which can be tough to eliminate.

Now, as we've all heard, pet laws are changing fast in favour of tenants.

Here's the low down on where states and territories now sit on this point:

  • South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania still give landlords the right to refuse all pets 
    NB: New South Wales and South Australia are now considering changing these laws
  • Queensland, the ACT, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Victoria have agreed to give tenants the right to keep pets - regardless of whether landlords like the idea or not

An excellent example of these new laws is that of Queensland, where as of October 2022, landlords are no longer allowed to give their rental property a "blanket" automatic refusal to all pets.

Tenants must still apply in writing for permission to keep a pet.

But unless the landlord has a "valid reason"(as deemed by the government) for why they won't allow a pet in their rental property, the tenant has the legal right to do so. 

Plus, if the landlord doesn't respond to a tenant's pet request within 14 days, this non-reply is deemed an automatic approval of the request.

Similar conditions are in place in Victoria and the ACT with Western Australia the only state or territory to legally request an optional pet bond from tenants.

Landlord rights - where are they now?
Unless the landlord has a "valid reason"(as deemed by the government) for why they won't allow a pet in their rental property, the tenant has the legal right to do so.

Landlord rights: rental increases

There's no gainsaying it: rental vacancies in every capital city are now at or below 2%, leaving tenants struggling to find a property.

And we're not denying that plenty of tenants have been hit by extraordinarily high rental increases lately.

But as with pets, there can be more to such increases than meets the eye.

Firstly, landlords generally can't increase fixed-lease agreement rents - unless it's highlighted in the agreement.

As well, landlords will usually need to give their tenants at least 60 days' written notice before this change.

Can, and should, I increase rent?

As Metropole's Leanne Jopson, points out, landlords should consider two parts of rental increases: how often you can increase the rent, and how often you should.

"Prices are generally influenced by local supply and demand," Ms Jopson explained.

"When there is more demand than supply, such as in the current rental market, landlords have more power when it comes to rent negotiations.

"And when there is more supply and less demand the opposite rings true, with renters holding all the power, as happened a few years ago."

How much can I increase rent?

Ms Jopson said it's important to note that there is no legislation to regulate how much rent can be increased - it all depends on what is "reasonable".

The ACT is the only place that puts a "cap" on increases with those 10% above Canberra’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) considered excessive and possibly refused by the Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Changing rental increase laws

As with pets, some state and territory laws are now changing in favour of tenants notably, those in Queensland and Western Australia.

As of July 1, 2023, rental increases are only allowed every year, rather than every six months, in Queensland.

The same law was announced for Western Australia in May 2023, with the time frame of the change not confirmed as yet.

State-by-territory rental increase regulations

NB: this information is based on fixed-term agreements which don't have such rental increases "written into" their contract with tenants given 60 days' notice in writing):

  • New South Wales - rent can only be increased annually
  • Tasmania - the same laws as New South Wales with increases only allowed at the agreement's expiry date
  • Victoria - the same laws as New South Wales for agreements of five years or less, with increases only allowed at agreement expiry
  • Queensland - as of July 1, 2023, rental increases are only allowed if the last one was at least a year ago
  • Western Australia - rental increase laws will soon change, with such changes only allowed once every year
  • Plus, if the agreement expires and rolls over to a new fixed-term agreement for the same tenant, a rental increase won't begin until 30 days after the new agreement begins
  • South Australia - rental increases are only allowed once every year
  • Northern Territory - rental increases are allowed every six months and landlords only need to give tenants 30 days' notice of the change 
  • ACT - the once-every-year increase applies with landlords needing to give tenants an eight-week written notice of the change 

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