Proposed public landlord register is unjustified, says REIQ
The Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) looks forward to the Housing Summit surfacing fresh ideas to solve the state’s crippling housing crisis, but says the recent suggestion from Tenants Queensland to establish a public-facing ‘landlord register’ is unjustified.
REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella said the REIQ does not support the establishment of a public landlord register or see how this could help the government address the housing crisis we’re facing.
“Governments, at all levels, are already aware of who and how many property owners are providing housing for Queenslanders – they certainly know how to get in touch with them because they issue relevant tax, rates notices, and other fees directly to them,” Ms Mercorella said.
“While we appreciate there’s benefits to understanding investor behaviour, there are far better ways to gain these insights without forcing lessors to publicly disclose their personal information.
“Given there are already local, state, and federal laws and regulation that govern residential tenancies and ensure people are taxed appropriately, a public landlord register is redundant.
“We’re also concerned that if a landlord register was established under the guise of informing government policy, that the motive of using it to find new ways to punish and strongarm investors into decisions around how they use their property would inevitably become apparent.”
Ms Mercorella said that it was inaccurate to suggest that tenants were in the dark about who their lessor is, and that this put them at a disadvantage.
“Tenants have access to their property owner’s or their appointed representative’s contact details via a prescribed tenancy agreement which must be used in Queensland when entering into residential tenancy relationships,” she explained.
“This means that everyone in a tenancy relationship has the ability to communicate as and when necessary, and given the ongoing obligations between the parties, it’s in everyone’s interests to keep these lines of communication open.
“The suggestion that property owners’ personal details should be in a publicly available database flies in the face of privacy laws and is inappropriate – just as it would be if tenants’ details and personal information was disclosed in a public register.”
She said the notion that lessors should disclose various personal details to tenants, given tenants provide information about themselves as part of a tenancy application process, was unfounded.
“We acknowledge that tenants are handing over quite extensive information about themselves securely to the property manager or lessor as part of the tenancy application process,” she said.
“However, there’s a legitimate reason for conducting reasonable due diligence, to ensure that the applicant has the financial ability to pay the rent and meet the financial obligations, and similarly, has a good rental history which speaks to their ability to care for a property.”
Finally in response to the suggestion from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) that the register would “keep rogue owners honest”, Ms Mercorella said this ignored the fact that the state already had strict and comprehensive legislation to govern tenancies.
“In Queensland, we already have a regulatory framework which stipulates the standards of rental premises and inclusions and there are enforceable consequences should these standards be breached,” she explained.
“As part of the first stage of rental reforms, a broad range of new rights was introduced from 1 October 2022 to further empower tenants and provide statutory safeguards with respect to repairs and maintenance issues.
“These rights and protections will be further enhanced through the introduction of minimum housing standards which come into effect for new tenancies from September 2023.
“The REIQ acknowledges that there are a minority of property owners that aren’t doing the right thing, but we’d caution against reforms designed to target a select few when we know that in the vast majority of cases, property owners and tenants have respectful and positive relationships.
“This is evidenced by the annual data released by the Residential Tenancy Authority who manage hundreds of thousands of tenancy enquiries in Queensland each year and resolve disputes between lessors and tenants.”
Changes to tenancy laws relating to repairs and maintenance issues from 1 October 2022
- The amount a tenant is allowed to incur on an emergency repair has been increased to 4 weeks rent (previously 2 weeks rent).
- The lessor must include contact details for nominated repairers that the tenant can call if they need repairs and/or cannot contact the agency.
- There is a new type of order – a repair order – which the tenant can apply for at QCAT if the lessor doesn’t carry out a requested repair or maintenance issue and/or reimburse the tenant for a repair within a reasonable time. This is applicable for emergency repairs and also includes routine repairs to the property or its inclusions, provided the relevant criteria are met set out in the RTRA Act.
- QCAT can make a repair order requiring the lessor to repair the property or its inclusions by a stated date at the lessor’s cost and may order: that the tenant pay reduced rent until the repair is carried out; or the lessor pay an amount to the tenant as compensation for loss of amenity.
- Until complied with, the repair order continues to apply to the property and if the tenancy is ended, the repair order must be disclosed in any new tenancy agreement. The tenant also has a right to end a tenancy if a repair order is granted.
- The tenant also has new rights to terminate or apply to terminate the tenancy: The tenant may terminate within 7 days if the property is not fit to live in or in good repair; and the tenant may apply to QCAT to terminate within the first 3 months of the tenancy if the lessor or lessor’s agent gave the tenant false or misleading information about the condition of the premises or inclusions or services provided for the premises.
- There are also new retaliatory provisions where a tenant can apply to set aside certain notices/action taken by the lessor if they believe it was done in retaliation to the tenant taking steps to enforce their rights.