VCAT Braced For More Disputes Over New Victorian Rental Laws

Could Victoria’s New Rental Laws Increase VCAT Disputes?

Victoria’s new rental laws look set to be put to the test with The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal expecting a flood of new disputes as a result of the reforms, according to one former tribunal member.

Having sat on VCAT for 15 years, former member William Holloway knows all about the long wait times for disputes to be heard and addressed at the tribunal and said that the new laws had created a wide range of scenarios which could now be referred to VCAT.

“I think it will mean a lot more cases, and as a consequence, we’ll need a lot more resources,” Mr Holloway told Domain.

“Despite what [Labor] have said, I don’t think they’ve clearly costed it.

“It’s totally under-resourced. If you go to NSW they’ve got researchers to help the members, we don’t have anything like that here.”

With the new rental laws allowing tenants to have pets and make some modifications to their landlord’s property, as well as allowing for greater tolerance of late rental payments, landlords could find themselves looking to VCAT to turn the tide back in their favour.

Landlords seeking to disallow pets in their property will now need to seek an order from VCAT, disputes over extra-condition reports would also need to go to VCAT.

“The possibilities for extra cases … there are so many extra things and that will mean more delays,” Mr Holloway said.

“There are some disputes over where you now don’t have to go to VCAT, but the cut-down won’t be worth it.”

The Labor Government’s Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz said a review of VCAT’s resources was planned.

“We’re working with VCAT and stakeholders to make sure we get this right so that everyone can receive affordable, easily accessible and effective dispute resolution,” she said.

While the new laws could mean more cases for VCAT, other experts are expecting minimal changes to rental prices and insurance premiums for landlords.

National Insurance Brokers Association chief executive Dallas Booth said they may be more options for landlords to consider when it comes to insuring their investment properties, but said premiums would only increase with extra cover.

One such example of extra cover a landlord might take out is to cover for the additional modifications tenants are now allowed to make to a property without the owner’s consent.

“If landlords want that sort of cover, I think insurers would look at it and would be interested in covering it,” Mr Booth said.

Meanwhile, Domain Group economist Trent Wiltshire said fears that rents would spike as a result of the changes are somewhat exaggerated.

“I think some landlords may decide to not rent out their properties because of these new laws, but they’ll sell to another landlord who will rent it out or a tenant who wanted to buy so that won’t affect rents,” Mr Wiltshire said. “There may be some landlords who decide to leave their properties vacant or list them on Airbnb but I would think this is a very small amount of landlords.

“So again, the effect on rents would be minimal.”

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