,The Queensland Government’s Department of Housing and Public Works are currently undertaking the process to reform tenancy law in the state, recently releasing its Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement (CRIS). Yep – more acronyms! The CRIS outlines possible rental reform options, with a view to giving tenants greater rights and powers.

The CRIS has created quite a stir, with the REIQ (Real Estate Institute of Queensland) setting up their own webpage to combat the proposed changes for what they believe will “destroy the Queensland property market”! Slogans of “My Risk + My Investment = It’s My Call” for property owners or “I’m Saying No to Rent Increases” for tenants, jump off the screen at you as soon as you hit the site.

The RTA (Residential Tenancies Authority) are on the bandwagon with “A Better Renting Future”, seemingly a little bit more behind the reform process. They’re encouraging you to go and have your say on the proposed reforms or make any other suggestions by visiting  http://www.qld.gov.au/rentinginqld and putting your 5 cents worth in the “Give Feedback” section.

The reforms cover many aspects including having a Minimum Housing Standard for Rentals, which surely is a good thing right?

Under the proposal, all rental properties in Queensland would need to meet certain minimum standards addressing:

  • weatherproofing and structural soundness
  • plumbing and drainage
  • security
  • the standard of repair of fixtures and fittings
  • control of pests and vermin
  • ventilation, lighting and privacy
  • cooking and food preparation facilities

Like I said, that all sounds good to me.

The more controversial topics of the outlined changes to current tenancy law are:

  • Renting with Pets – with property owners having to have a good reason for refusing tenants to keep a pet and…property owners will have to seek a QCAT order to exclude pets from a property
  • Minor Modifications – tenants not needing approval from the property owner for minor modifications
  • Domestic and Family Violence – tenants experiencing domestic and family violence can end a tenancy without the usual notice requirements and get their bond back quickly
  • Ending a Tenancy – owners would no longer be able to end a tenancy without a valid reason by simply not offering another lease and tenants would have additional grounds to end a tenancy. More in line with tenancy in Europe or the US where people rent a property indefinitely. Think Seinfeld or Friends, they were in their apartments for the entire 90s!

All the details of the topics above can be found here: https://www.yoursayhpw.engagementhq.com/rentinginqld

So what does this all mean for people with a disability?

Let’s look at the proposed changes in the Minor Modifications category for a second.

The Department of Housing website has this to say on modifications:

The liveability of a home contributes to its resident’s wellbeing.

Some tenants may also have circumstances that mean changes need to be made to their rental property.

These include:

  • people who need accessibility modifications to their accommodation, whether due to age, injury, illness or other circumstances
  • people with disabilities
  • families with young children
  • people experiencing domestic and family violence.

Proposed changes:

  • We want to improve the ability of tenants to alter their rented homes to meet their needs while providing safeguards for property owners to protect their investment
  • We are recommending establishing a list of proposed minor modifications that would not need approval from the property owner or would allow fast-tracked approval.

Minor modifications requiring no approval would include:

  • health and safety modifications
  • accessibility modifications (ramps and hand rails etc.)
  • security modifications
  • modifications to provide access to basic telecommunications

Minor modifications with a fast-tracked (7 day) approval process would include:

(It does say in the “fine print”, if an owner doesn’t respond within 7 days it’s deemed approved)

  • minor modifications to personalise or improve the amenity of the premises
  • minor energy and water efficiency modifications
  • connection of non-essential communications services.

As we know, retrofitting and modifications to a home gets really expensive and, as you can see above, if it’s a rental property it can get complicated and controversial. This why building LHA accredited “liveable homes” in the first place makes so much sense! What’s this “Project Silver” thing you have been banging on about?

The thought of tenants being able to make modifications to the home without approval is certainly concerning for mum & dad investors. However, if you are already a good landlord who maintains the property well and looks after your tenant’s needs, or you’re a tenant who respects and looks after the home you live in, have you got too much to worry about? Maybe…time will tell.

With an increasing lack of public housing available in QLD, and massive waiting lists, is this a step towards shifting public housing to the private market? That might be a controversial statement but are we witnessing a similar thing with SDA properties by superseding the traditional group home and opening it up to the private investment market to take up SDA investment?