If Brisbane landlords are happy to have pets in their investment property, the current Queensland tenancy laws allow them to agree on this with their tenants. If tenants would like to hang pictures on a wall or make other cosmetic changes today they can mutually agree on this with their landlord. If both parties to a rental agreement would like a long lease (as many years as they like) they have the legal option right now to commit to this. So why would the Queensland government see the need to remove the landlord’s voice in these decisions? To remove the property owner’s option to not agree to these important issues for their investment? To hand control over to tenants alone.
Over the long weekend a new public consultation started but these issues are not new at all. We first wrote about many of the proposals to change Queensland tenancy laws 6 years ago and again in 2016. Behind the discussions is the concept of making tenants feel more at home and able to enjoy greater security in their rental dwelling. And we completely agree with the sentiment. Our property managers understand the need to look after tenants, to respond to their maintenance requests, to encourage them to put down roots in the home. All landlords want good tenants to enjoy greater security, peace of mind and a long stay in the property. A tenant who pays their rent and takes care of the property makes life so much better for that landlord. And their agent!
But the proposed laws don’t give tenants anything they can’t currently get through discussions with the landlord. What they do is remove the right of a landlord to say no.
The REIQ’s Antonia Mercorella says landlords must have a right to choose. “They have to make the decision whether to allow tenants to have pets and accept the potential risks such as damaged floorboards, fleas or infestation and damaged backyards. Landlords are more likely to be open and flexible on this issue if they can come together with the tenants and reach a mutual decision to manage the additional risk that might come with pets.”
Queensland’s tenant advocates won’t support the REIQ’s call for an extra pet bond, saying the current bond should be enough. So let’s have a look at the facts on this: Currently there’s mandated maximum bonds of 28 days rent (unless the rent is more than $700/week). If a tenant stops paying rent the arrears and eviction process cannot be done in this time frame, so a landlord will always come out behind. And that’s before any extended eviction process (the tribunal system can take months for an “urgent application”) and it’s before any damage bills, unpaid invoices and any cleaning required to get the property back to rentable condition. Landlords wear substantial risk under our current tenancy laws and these risks have increased several times over past years.
Pets are incredibly important members of many families and extra bonds is a simple way both sides could benefit. And one suggestion we heard recently – those pet bonds could be held separately and the RSPCA benefit from the interest. It’d be a substantial sum and help that badly underfunded organisation do more to protect Queensland’s animals.
The vast majority of tenancies end without dispute. Around 98% of them. Most people do the right thing, respect eachother’s position and know they need eachother. But some don’t and the Queensland government wants to remove a landlord’s right to say no to those tenants. Why not have greater flexibility in the law to allow tenants and landlords to increase the bond? Allow cosmetic changes to be made, while the landlord has greater security that restoring/repair works can be paid for.
Removing landlords’ rights to say no to various issues carries a huge risk for Queensland’s tenants. Investors make a choice to invest in property, to borrow a huge sum from their bank, to incur the costs of holding that property, with the hope it will grow in value. They invest for their retirement, lessening the burden on the welfare system. And in doing so they provide essential housing for the one third of Queenslanders who rent. If they choose to invest in other places our rents will rise. Or the government will have no choice but to tax us all for more public housing.
This is a finely balanced marketplace and the government should be careful its radical measures don’t create a huge problem for us all.
Please share your thoughts on the changes here, and also by making your comments on the Queensland tenancy law consultation page.