SA’s new rental laws to come into effect

South Australia’s new rental laws are set to take effect on July 1 and will see new rights for tenants facing record-low vacancy rates.

Under the changes, landlords will only be able to end a periodic tenancy or not renew a fixed-term lease for a prescribed reason, including breaches by the tenant, and wanting to sell, renovate or occupy the property.

The State Government has also increased the minimum notice to end a fixed tenancy from 28 days to 60 days, so tenants will have more time to secure a new home and make the necessary arrangements to move.

For the first time, tenants will be allowed to keep pets in rental properties with clear guidelines to be set by their landlord, such as keeping the animal outside or having the carpets cleaned at the end of the tenancy.

The Malinauskas Government has also appointed RentRight SA to be the new Tenant Advice and Advocacy Service.

They will support tenants by advising and advocating for them to help resolve tenancy issues before the need for tribunal action along with offering financial counselling.

Premier of South Australia, Peter Malinauskas said his government had been working to protect the rights of tenants.

“In the here and now, we’re making life fairer for renters,” Mr Malinauskas said. 

“South Australians shouldn’t have to choose between a pet and a home

“Nor should they be evicted with no reason and little notice.

“These sensible measures that take effect from July 1 will make life easier for renters while protecting the rights of property owners.”

This suite of reforms is the largest action to date, with the Malinauskas Government having already limited the frequency of rent increases to once in a 12-month period, along with banning rent bidding.

Real Estate Institute of South Australia (REISA) Legislation and Industry Advisor, Paul Edwards, said they worked hard with the government to try and find a balance that would help both landlords and tenants.

“Compared to the other states, we think it’s probably the most balanced in the country,” Mr Edwards said.

“There are some things that we lost, there are some things that we won, but overall I think it does balance the rights of both landlords and tenants.”

Mr Edwards said there were some areas where the industry didn’t fully agree with the government’s changes.

“We lobbied very hard that if you do allow a pet, then you should have a pet bond,” he said.

“One of the main ones was that if a tenant breaks a lease, you can only ask for four weeks rent.

“In today’s market, that might not be such a bad thing, because most properties are renting within two and three weeks.

“But in a slower market, and particularly for the regions, that capping of four weeks rent, we argued very strongly against. 

“Because if it takes 10 weeks to rent out the property, then the landlord should be entitled to that.”

He said that property managers would need to quickly update their systems and processes.

“Property managers are frantically trying to get all their processes and procedures in order for the 1st of July,” he said.

“It’s just really a case now of educating their landlords and also making sure that their tenant selection processes are as robust as possible, because if you have a difficult tenant who actually isn’t breaching the law, you actually can’t get rid of them.  

“So it’s all a question of educating the landlords, making sure they understand and are working through the processes.”

Mr Edwards said it was very difficult to find that middle ground when it comes to rental reforms.

“Ultimately landlords are going to say that it’s unfair to them,” he said.

“Tenants are going to say it didn’t go far enough. 

“It’s really, really hard because their interests are mutually exclusive and landlords and tenants are coming from different sides of the equation. 

“To get that right balance where everyone is happy is almost impossible, I think.”

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