Victorian landlords will have to haul their tenants in front of a tribunal if they want to refuse pets.
That’s one of 130 reforms proposed by Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday, to be introduced into parliament this week.
The strengthened rental rights were first flagged in October during the Northcote by-election.
The government previously said landlords would only be able to deny a tenant a pet in unspecified “certain circumstances”.
That was ramped up on Sunday, when Labor promised: “Protections for pet owners will be stronger, with residential rental providers only able to refuse the right of a tenant to have a pet by order of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.”
Family violence victims will be able to terminate rental agreements under the reforms.
“A woman trying to flee abuse can break a lease under these changes without incurring penalties, without there being that extra burden or that extra reason to perhaps feel that you had to stay in an abusive, potentially tragic, relationship,” Mr Andrews told reporters.
The change would satisfy a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
Landlords would not be left out of pocket in such situations, Mr Andrews said, with compensation plans available.
The reforms will also put an end to rental bidding, limit rent increases to once a year and cap rental bonds at no more than four weeks’ rent.
Tenants would also have the right to make minor modifications, like nailing a hook on the wall, without obtaining consent from the landlord.
And every rental will need to have a functioning stove, heating and deadlocks.
Basic safety standards for gas, electricity and smoke alarms would also need to be met.
At the end of a tenancy, bond could be released automatically unless a landlord raises a dispute within 14 days.
“We said we’d make renting fair, and we’re delivering,” Mr Andrews said in a statement on Sunday.
More than one in four Victorians rent their home.
Mr Andrews and Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz said the reforms took time to be finalised because of consultation.
The announcement made no mention of the previous promise to abolish no-reason evictions.
The Make Renting Fair Campaign said the reforms would be a positive development for renters.
“We welcome the additional clarifications of the proposed reforms, particularly the introduction of minimum standards for rented properties and simpler processes for tenants to have pets and to do minor modifications to their rented premises to a make it a home,” campaign spokesperson and Tenants Victoria CEO Mark O’Brien said.
He called for the full legislation to be released, and warned against watering down or delaying the reforms.
“Any moves to dilute these reforms would be very unpopular in the community and strongly opposed by housing and welfare groups.”
There are only four sitting weeks left this year before the November election and the upper house has become increasingly combative.
Mr Andrews said the reforms passing parliament would be a judgment on the Legislative Council and “whether they value certainty, security and common-sense reform to benefit tenants”.
“I would hope they would be motivated to get on, just as we are, to make these changes.”
Opposition leader Matthew Guy said the legislation would be assessed on its merit, but accused the government of not doing enough to stop renters being priced out of the market.
“When the government won’t approve housing through supply in our downtown area of Melbourne, that means that we have fewer homes,” he told reporters.
The Greens said the legislation needed to be prioritised to ensure it gets through parliament by the November election.
“There is no excuse to stall for so long, and if there isn’t enough time for the Bill to pass, this amounts to a broken promise from Labor,” Greens consumer affairs spokesperson Lidia Thorpe said in a statement.
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