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Looming changes to tenant rights highlight the role of professional property managers

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The latest changes to tenant rights, notification periods, the vacating process and lease agreements in Victoria are very complex and could easily embroil unwary landlords in legal trouble. 

DIY landlords also face potential extra costs if they fail to properly navigate their way through the state’s new Residential Tenancies Act, which was passed through Parliament late last year by the Andrews Government.

In contrast, professional property managers are paid to keep fully abreast of legislation affecting rental properties, and can represent owners if disputes wind up in the tenancy tribunal.

Senior property manager with Nelson Alexander, Grant Gifford, says increasingly tenants prefer a property manager to dealing directly with a landlord.

The number of people who rent their home is on a fast growth trajectory in Victoria, and many tenants are professionals.

Mr Gifford says most tenants today feel they’ll receive more professional service from a manager.

The number of people who rent their home is on a fast growth trajectory in Victoria

In addition, a big proportion of tenants believe having a mediator between them and the landlord provides a level of comfort if a dispute arises.

Victoria’s new Tenancies Act is the most comprehensive change to residential tenancies in 20 years.

It is a complex piece of legislation that when fully implemented, is likely to sharply increase the legal rights of tenants. 

It is very important to remember that the Act has not come into effect yet. This means the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 remains the law, probably until at least mid-2020.

The Government is working with the Real Estate Institute of Victoria and other stakeholders to develop a range of regulations that will sit alongside the Act and make it workable and understandable.

Nelson Alexander has also been working with the Government and Consumer Affairs Victoria to ensure this process is comprehensive.

“It’s important we get the regulations right,” Mr Gifford says. “We are already providing extensive training to our property managers on the changes to ensure that our landlords have accurate information.”

A property manager is a buffer between the landlord and the tenant

Renting out properties is becoming ever more complex on many fronts. There are numerous reasons to engage the services of a property manager:

  • A manager is a buffer between the landlord and the tenant. Property managers are able to quickly organise a repair and address maintenance issues.
  • Property managers have long lists of trusted tradespeople they can call into action 24/7.
  • Market knowledge of weekly rents, suburb yields and vacancy rates is part of the skill-set of an experienced property manager. This data allows managers to give advice about suitable rents and is very useful when the time comes for a rent review.
  • When a tenant vacates, the manager can quickly produce a marketing campaign to find a replacement, saving the landlord considerable time.
  • Nelson Alexander manages more than 15,000 rental properties across Melbourne, and has an extensive database of current, past and prospective tenants. This data makes searching for and finding a new tenant much easier.
  • A skilled property manager can host bi-weekly open-for-inspections and arrange private showings. Nelson Alexander managers often hold open houses at lunchtime, which suits many tenants.

Under changes proposed by the State Government, a new long lease agreement will make it easier for landlords and tenants to agree to longer leases.

The Government is also proposing to remove the 120-day ‘no specified reason’ notice to vacate.

At the moment if a tenant is renting month to month, the landlord can tell the tenant to leave with 120 days’ notice. For this kind of notice, the landlord does not need to give a reason.

The Government has proposed changing the Act so landlords will only be able to end a tenancy if they give a reason specified in the Act. Example reasons are if the landlord is selling or renovating the property.

Mr Gifford says the Government has also proposed that landlords cannot have a say if pets are permitted to live in their houses or if modifications are allowed to a rental property. These changes could have a negative impact on landlords’ properties.

If you would like to discuss your property management needs, please contact any Nelson Alexander office or fill in the form below for an obligation free rental appraisal. 

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