Important changes to Queensland residential tenancies have taken effect. Here’s what landlords need to know.
In Queensland, renting a residential property is governed by the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008. The Act was reviewed in 2021 and several changes come into effect over the subsequent three years. Several key changes are in force from 1 October 2022. These include:
- new laws around ending tenancies
- new framework for negotiating renting with pets
- introduction of repair orders
- other important amendments related to tenancy obligations.
Some of the changes may impact your landlord insurance. Why? Because landlord insurance policies are tightly tied to aspects of tenancy law including, for example, in relation to evictions, bonds, minimum standards and damage claims. If you fail to meet your legal obligations, there is a good chance you’ll fail to meet your obligations under your insurance policy too. In a nutshell, you need to act in accordance with the tenancy laws if you want to remain covered.
Here’s a rundown of the new laws that came into effect on 1 October 2022.
New law: ending tenancies
While existing reasons to end a fixed-term or periodic tenancy are still available, such as non-liveability or un-remediated breach, the option to end a tenancy ‘without grounds’ is no longer available. Landlords and property managers must specify a reason for ending the tenancy. New reasons include:
- end of a fixed-term agreement
- preparing the property to sell, or sale of the rental property with vacant possession
- the owner or their relative moving in
- change of use of the property
- significant repairs or renovations
- demolition or re-development
- premises used for State Government program.
An application can also be made to QCAT for a termination order if there has been a serious breach at the rental property.
It’s important that a specific reason for termination of the tenancy is provided and that the appropriate notice period is given (refer to the RTA website for details).
In addition to the existing reasons for ending a tenancy remaining, such as non-liveability or no grounds, tenants have four new grounds on which to end a tenancy:
- the property is not in a good state of repair
- the owner has failed to comply with a repair order
- a co-tenant passes away
- for student accommodation, the tenant is no longer a student in an approved course of education or study.
The tenant can also apply to QCAT to end the tenancy if they were given false or misleading information by the landlord or property manager about the premises or the tenancy agreement.
Impact on landlord insurance
Landlords and property managers must follow the requirements for lawful eviction if the policyholder wants to submit a claim for loss of rent or tenant damage. Failing to comply with the legislated procedures (including issuing notices and timeframes) could result in the insurance claim being reduced or even denied.
New law: renting with pets
A new framework for negotiating renting with pets applies.
There is a new form that tenants must use to apply to keep a pet during their tenancy. Once they’ve submitted the form, you have 14 days to make your decision. If you don’t respond within 14 days, the pet request will be considered approved.
If you approve the pet, you can specify reasonable conditions in your written response for keeping a pet. Reasonable conditions include matters such as requiring the tenant to arrange professional fumigation of the property if the animal is capable of carrying parasites and/or professional carpet cleaning at the end of their tenancy, or keeping the pet outside if it’s a type of pet not ordinarily kept inside. However, you or your property manager cannot collect a ‘pet bond’ or take a lump sum payment from a tenant for pet approval.
Heads up: Tenants remain responsible for any damage caused by their pets and pet damage has been excluded from the definition of fair wear and tear, meaning owners are able to seek compensation for damage that’s caused by pets.
If you refuse the pet, you must specify a reason that is outlined in the legislation for refusal, for example keeping a pet would breach a body corporate by-law.
Impact on landlord insurance
If your tenants don’t make good on their obligation to rectify damage caused by their pets, you may look to your insurance policy for compensation. EBM RentCover policies include up to $70,000 to cover the cost of damage caused by domestic pets. Not all landlord insurance providers offer cover for pet damage and some have onerous conditions related to cover. EBM RentCover policyholders do not need to name the pet on the lease (the pet just has to be owned by the tenant) and are only required to inspect the property within six months of the initial lease commencing and at least annually thereafter.
New law: introduction of repair orders
While landlords, property managers and tenants are encouraged to work together to resolve repair issues, if the matter is unsolved the tenant can apply to QCAT for a repair order. This new law does not apply to short-term moveable dwellings and rooming accommodation.
Any repair order will be attached to the property and not to the tenancy, so the owner will be responsible for complying with the order by the due date even if the tenants move out. Any repair order than has not been completed must be disclosed to new tenants who occupy the property until the order has been complied with.
Owners can apply to QCAT for an extension if the repair order cannot be completed by the date stated, subject to having a valid reason, such as labour or material shortages.
Impact on landlord insurance
It is a condition of cover that the premises must be adequately maintained. Failing to maintain the premises can result in the policy being void. Properties that do not meet minimum standards may be considered to not be adequately maintained. There is also a condition that requires the policyholder to reasonably act to prevent further loss. Non-compliance with a repair order may be considered a breach of these obligations.
New law: emergency repairs
Of the other amendments that came into effect on 1 October 2022, there are two which relate to emergency repairs:
- increasing the value of emergency repairs that a tenant can arrange to up to the equivalent of four weeks’ rent (previously two weeks)
- allowing the property manager to make deductions from rent payments for the cost of emergency repairs (equivalent to four weeks’ rent maximum).
Other amendments include:
- the requirement to provide the name and contact details for nominated repairers in the tenancy agreement
- extending the timeframe for a tenant to return their Entry Condition Report at the start of their tenancy to seven days (previously three days).
Impact on landlord insurance
EBM RentCover policyholders are not required to seek pre-approval to arrange emergency repairs. Urgent emergency repairs should be made as soon as practicable to prevent or limit further loss. All receipts and tax invoices for the emergency repairs should be submitted as part of the insurance claim (assuming that the event that resulted in the emergency repair being needed is covered by the policy, for example roof damage caused by a storm).
Changes already in effect
The Housing Legislation Amendment Act 2021 came into effect on 20 October 2021 and amends the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008. The changes are being implemented in phases over a three-year period.
The first phase commenced on 20 October 2021 and introduced greater domestic and family violence protections for tenants and residents. These changes may impact landlords when making insurance claims for loss of rent or tenant damage.
More changes to come
Additional changes to the legislation are set to come into effect in the years ahead. Minimum housing standards will commence for new tenancies from 1 September 2023, and for all tenancies from 1 September 2024. The new standards will require rental premises to be weatherproof and structurally sound, fixtures and fittings to be in good repair and free from pests, damp and mould, to name a few. The new minimum standards may impact landlord insurance in relation to the obligation to adequately maintain the premises.
Changes to residential tenancy legislation have implications for landlord insurance cover. Be sure to know your legal rights and obligations, as failure to comply could impact your insurance.
*While we have taken care to ensure the information above is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances and legislation after the displayed date may impact the accuracy of this article. If you need us we are here, contact 1800 661 662 if you have any questions.
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