Minimum Housing Standards - Queensland rental reform review

Real Estate Excellence submission 9th December 2019

The Queensland Government released stage one of the proposed amendments to the RTRA Act 16th November, 2019. I have been keeping a running blog since the laws were first looked at being changed in 2012. View the blog, history, developments and more here.In this blog, I am addressing one of the five proposed changes relating to minimum housing standards.

If you agree with my submission below, you are welcome to copy and paste, make any final edits and submit to the Government review by 28th December 2019. Give feedback to the Queensland Labor Government here.

9th December 2019

I write in response to the Regulatory Impact Statement regarding proposed minimum housing standards.

As stated in my submission during the review in 2018 (further down in this submission), again, it is difficult to provide constructive and meaningful feedback in relation to proposed minimum housing standards as there is little detail provided in the RIS as to what the minimum housing standards mean. By not releasing the actual draft regulation at this point of the reform, Government are greatly disadvantaging investors by not enabling a constructive and fair consultation regarding proposed standards.

Under the proposal, all rental properties in Queensland would need to meet certain 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

We are also recommending changes to ensure that property owners and managers comply with the Minimum Housing Standards and basic requirements for repairs and maintenance. These include:

  • enhanced QCAT repair orders
  • an increase in the time allowed for a tenant to return a condition report
  • a requirement for property owners to provide key contact details for emergency repairs
  • an increase in the value of emergency repairs that can be authorised by a tenant
  • a new authority for property managers to approve emergency repairs, if the owner is unavailable

Given section 17A and amended section 185 have been in place since 2017, it is a great concern for transparency and a fair balanced approach, the Government have not released the regulations in draft as part of this stage of the rental reform review. It is hoped to have the draft regulations for further consultation before a Government decision is finalised moving forward.

22nd October 2018

It is difficult to provide constructive feedback to the “Property condition join the conversation’ discussion of the RTRA Act review when the regulations required to provide the actual definition of the minimum housing standards are not yet available. Given the amendment to section 185 and the introduction of section 17A as at November 2017 are already in play, further detail should be provided to the sector to allow for a more informed feedback. Any proposed and or draft regulations are needed to provide a constructive platform regarding the impact and benefit (or lack of) to the private rental sector in relation to the proposed minimum housing standards. The questions (as per the website below as at 18th October 2018) are too broad and need further explanation. It is assumed that part of the Government review expectation, is via the feedback provided from tenants, lessors and agents to the questions below, more information will be clarified for the sector moving forward before regulations are introduced.

185 Lessor’s obligations generally

 

(1) This section does not apply to an agreement if—

(a) the premises are moveable dwelling premises consisting only of the site for the dwelling; and

(b) the tenancy is a long tenancy (moveable dwelling).

(2) At the start of the tenancy, the lessor must ensure—

(a) the premises and inclusions are clean; and

(b) the premises are fit for the tenant to live in; and

(c) the premises and inclusions are in good repair; and

(d) the lessor is not in breach of a law dealing with issues about the health or safety of persons using or entering the premises; and

(e) the premises and inclusions otherwise comply with any prescribed minimum housing standards applying to the premises or inclusions.

[s 185]

(3) While the tenancy continues, the lessor—

(a) must maintain the premises in a way that the premises remain fit for the tenant to live in; and

(b) must maintain the premises and inclusions in good repair; and

(c) must ensure any law dealing with issues about the health or safety of persons using or entering the premises is complied with; and

(d) if the premises include a common area—must keep the area clean; and

(e) must ensure the premises and inclusions otherwise comply with any prescribed minimum housing standards applying to the premises or inclusions.

Note—

See section 217 for the tenant’s obligations to notify the lessor about damage to premises and the need for repairs.

(4) However, the lessor is not required to comply with subsection (2)(c) or (3)(a) for fixtures attached to premises,

and inclusions supplied with premises, (the non-standard items) if—

(a) the lessor is—

(i) the State; or

(ii) the replacement lessor under a community housing provider tenancy agreement; and

(b) the non-standard items are specified in the agreement and the agreement states the lessor is not responsible for their maintenance; and

(c) the non-standard items are not necessary and reasonable to make the premises a fit place in which to live; and

(d) the non-standard items are not a risk to health or safety;

and

(e) for fixtures—the fixtures were not attached to the premises by the lessor.

[s 186]

(5) In this section—

premises include any common area available for use by the tenant with the premises.

Division 4 Prescribed minimum housing standards

 

17A Prescribed minimum housing standards

 

(1) A prescribed minimum housing standard means a standard

prescribed by a regulation.

(2) A regulation may prescribe minimum housing standards for—

(a) a residential premises let, or to be let, under a residential

tenancy agreement; or

(b) a rental premises; or

(c) inclusions for premises; or

(d) facilities in a moveable dwelling park (park facilities).

(3) A prescribed minimum housing standard may be for any

matter relating to the premises, inclusions or park facilities,

including, for example, the following—

(a) sanitation, drainage, cleanliness and repair of the

premises, inclusions or park facilities;

(b) ventilation and insulation;

(c) protection from damp and its effects;

(d) construction, condition, structures, safety and situation

of the premises, inclusions or park facilities;

(e) the dimensions of rooms in the premises;

(f) privacy and security;

(g) provision of water supply, storage and sanitary facilities;

(h) laundry and cooking facilities;

(i) lighting;

(j) freedom from vermin infestation;

(k) energy efficiency.

[s 18]

(4) If a regulation made under subsection (2) makes provision in

relation to a matter and provision is also made in relation to

that matter by, or under, any Act, the regulation—

(a) if not inconsistent with the Act, must be observed in

addition to that Act; and

(b) if inconsistent with the Act, is, to the extent of the

inconsistency, of no force or effect and that Act prevails.

Example of inconsistency between a prescribed minimum housing

standard and an Act—

A prescribed minimum housing standard, that purports to

require a lessor to keep residential premises and inclusions clean

after the start of a tenancy, is inconsistent with the obligations of

a tenant under section 188(2).

(5) A regulation may also prescribe how compliance with

minimum housing standards is to be monitored and enforced.

(6) In this section—

premises means premises mentioned in subsection (2)(a) or (b).

Extract from the review website below.

Property condition

Every Queenslander has a right to live in a safe, secure and sustainable home.

It’s important that rental properties across the state are fit to live in and stay in good repair throughout a tenancy.

Property owners must ensure rental premises and inclusions provide a safe environment for tenants, while tenants have a responsibility to look after the rental property, keeping it clean and in good order.

This week, we want to hear your experiences and ideas about minimum housing standards in a rental property, repairs and maintenance, and energy efficiency options to minimise cost of living.

Every Queenslander has a right to live in a safe, secure and sustainable home.

It’s important that rental properties across the state are fit to live in and stay in good repair throughout a tenancy.

Property owners must ensure rental premises and inclusions provide a safe environment for tenants, while tenants have a responsibility to look after the rental property, keeping it clean and in good order.

This week, we want to hear your experiences and ideas about minimum housing standards in a rental property, repairs and maintenance, and energy efficiency options to minimise cost of living.

Tell us what you think:

    • What do you think are acceptable standards for the condition of rental properties?
    • What standards of safety should Queensland rental properties be required to meet?
    • What should happen if minimum standards are not met?
    • How would minimum standards for rental accommodation impact you as a tenant, owner or manager?

Tell us what you think:

    • What do you think are acceptable standards for the condition of rental properties?
    • What standards of safety should Queensland rental properties be required to meet?
    • What should happen if minimum standards are not met?
    • How would minimum standards for rental accommodation impact you as a tenant, owner or manager?

Bottom of Form

Tell us what you think:

    • What does ‘clean’, ‘fit to live in’ and ‘in good repair’ for rental properties mean for you?
    • How could managing the ongoing repair and maintenance of rental properties be improved?
    • How can we improve the way in which damage caused to a Queensland rental property is dealt with?

Tell us what you think:

    • What does ‘clean’, ‘fit to live in’ and ‘in good repair’ for rental properties mean for you?
    • How could managing the ongoing repair and maintenance of rental properties be improved?
    • How can we improve the way in which damage caused to a Queensland rental property is dealt with?

Go to discussion

Bottom of Form

Tell us what you think:

    • How could energy and water efficiency of rental properties be improved?
    • What would encourage energy and water efficiency features to be included in rental properties, like solar panels or water saving devices?

Tell us what you think:

    • How could energy and water efficiency of rental properties be improved?
    • What would encourage energy and water efficiency features to be included in rental properties, like solar panels or water saving devices?

Go to discussion

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Tell us what you think:

    • How can housing design and safety measures be improved in the rental market?
    • What reasonable modifications should tenants be allowed to make for safety reasons?

Tell us what you think:

    • How can housing design and safety measures be improved in the rental market?
    • What reasonable modifications should tenants be allowed to make for safety reasons?

Go to discussion

With the limited information available without the regulations, the following feedback is hereby provided;

Whilst the focus and importance of having safe rental properties is paramount, the cost for compliance to the sector and the possible impact to the private rental market could be catastrophic to say the least to all parties involved, including tenants which may see rents rise to recoup the possible costs to investors.

 Landlords (lessors) already have clear statutory obligations in relation to ensuring properties are safe and fit to live in through section 185. If landlords fail in their obligations, tenants could utilise their many rights to ensure the landlord meets their legislative obligation.  

Tenants already have adequate rights when it comes to maintenance concerns of rental property particularly given the overarching provision of section 185 relating to landlord obligations. They can choose, depending on the situation one of more of the following;

o Breaching the lessor under section 185 of the RTRA Act

o Applying to the RTA dispute resolution via form 16

o If the matter is unresolved, apply to tribunal for an order about the matter

o Apply to tribunal via section 191 if the criterion is met

o Seek a rent reduction under section 94

It is strongly recommended before the proposed bill moves forward in relation to minimum housing standards, more information is provided to the sector to enable a more informed debate surrounding what the Government is proposing to be minimum housing standards for Queensland rental property.

Yours sincerely

Sent via email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Stacey Holt

Company Director

Real Estate Excellence Academy Pty Ltd