New Tenancy Provisions for Renters and Lessors in WA

Property owners and tenants in Western Australia have been reminded about recent changes to rules and regulations related to the Residential Tenancies Act 1987.

This is the law that governs renting in WA and all lessors and tenants need to be aware of it.

From July 1, amendments to the Act came into effect and will apply to all residential lease agreements commencing this financial year, whether they are new or renewed.

The Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA) this week (July 9) gently reminded renters and owners about the changes, which aren't so much a smattering of updates as a significant overhaul of rental regulations.

For instance, there are important changes to the value of the Option Fee, also known as Application Fee, charged to rental applicants.

This is money that prospective tenants pay to a lessor or property manager when they are applying to rent a property.

When their application is successful, it goes towards their rent; if unsuccessful it is refunded.

Before the recent changes, this fee could often be a week's worth of rent – putting a big financial burden on keen renters who wish to apply for several properties in a competitive rental market.

Now, Option Fees are to be more tightly regulated, and will be capped at $50 for properties that rent for $500 or less and $100 for properties going for between $500 and $1,200 a week.

More expensive properties will have fees of at most $1,200, though the $100 cap will still apply for rentals with a weekly rent of more than $500 located above the 26th parallel.

These should lighten the load for most renters and allow them to make several applications

Tenants will furthermore be able to take a more proactive stance when responding to incidents which require quick action.

They can now organise or undertake emergency repairs if the property owner or manager does not do so within 24 hours.

In addition to the many new provisions affecting tenants, there are many that owners need take heed of.

For instance, there are now minimum security standards relating to door locks, window locks and exterior lights. Lessors have two years to bring their rental properties into line with these new standards.

Additionally, property condition reports will now be required at the start and end of leases. The objective here is to minimise the likelihood of disputes occurring.

As this is something already undertaken by professional property managers, it will likely be more of a change for those who manage their own rental.

REIWA president David Airey says that owners who manage rental properties themselves should take special care not to breach the new provisions of the Act.

He says that some of the changes are quite complex and that those not well-versed in the regulations may want to look into the benefits of seeking expert assistance in managing their rentals.

"I would strongly encourage private owners to give serious consideration to handing their properties over to professional services and having them managed by experienced real estate agents," said Mr Airey.

The REIWA reported this week that rental vacancy rates in Perth had climbed in recent months, currently sitting at 3.2 per cent after bottoming out at 1.9 per cent at the end of 2012.

Despite this, however, median house rent prices in the city remain stable at around $475 a week, and March quarter data indicated that median unit prices had risen by around $5 a week to reach $455.