In late 2019, the WA Residential Tenancies Act was changed to provide greater protection for tenants.
Here are four key changes that every landlord needs to know about.
1. Tenants can secure furniture to the walls
Tenants can apply to landlords for permission to ‘affix’ or secure furniture to the walls if it helps protect the safety of a child or person with a disability. This includes items like a flat-screen television. They must use an approved form when they apply.
As a landlord, you can only refuse an application if:
- there is asbestos in the wall that would be disturbed
- your property is on the Register of Heritage Places, or
- a strata scheme bylaw prevents people from affixing items to the wall.
If you don’t respond within 14 days, you’ll be deemed to agree to the tenant’s request.
Unless you agree in writing, the tenant must remove the item when the lease ends. They must also let you know if they damage the wall when they affix an item or remove one. You can ask them to repair the damage or to compensate you for the cost of repairing it yourself.
2. Clarification on who pays utilities
Where utilities are connected in the name of a strata company or lessor, the tenant will only have to pay for their consumption if:
- it’s separately metered, or
- you’ve agreed in writing how charges will be calculated ahead of time.
Where utilities aren’t registered in the name of the tenant, they’re not responsible for any costs other than consumption. You must also provide them with a detailed written notice of the charge – including meter readings – within 30 days of receiving the bill from a utility provider.
3. Tenants are responsible for damage to common areas
From 1 January 2020, tenants are responsible for any damage to common areas of a property. This includes any damage to chattels in those common areas – such as clothes washers and dryers, rugs, chairs, tables and pot plants.
The court can terminate a lease if it finds a tenant has intentionally or recklessly caused serious damage to a common area or its chattels.
4. Magistrate’s Court can appoint representation
Where a dispute ends up in the Magistrate’s Court, it can choose to appoint an ‘appropriate person’ to represent someone if it deems it necessary. This could happen, for instance, where they’re ill or overseas. Before they’re appointed the person will need to show they understand the matter and the court also needs to be convinced the other party won’t be disadvantaged. The court will still allow property managers and tenants’ advocates to appear.
New changes introduced in March 2020: A six-month moratorium on evictions
On top of these changes, it’s important that you also keep in mind the federal government’s recent announcement of a six-month moratorium on evicting tenants suffering financial distress as a result of COVID-19.
This won’t affect the obligation of other tenants to pay their rent and you’ll still have the same rights when they don’t pay.
As always, the key ingredient is communication. It’s vital you keep the lines open with your tenants so that you know if they’re suffering distress and can work towards an agreement.
If you need help with this or any other of the changes that affect your Perth rental property contact our experienced team of property managers today.