Huge penalties now in place for ‘rent bidding’

Huge penalties now in place for ‘rent bidding’

387

Rent bidding is now banned, tenants have stronger rights to fight back against retaliatory action by landlords and undercover officers from Consumer Protection will be checking to make sure landlords and agents are doing the right thing.

Welcome to stage one of Western Australia’s Rent Reforms, which came into effect on 16 May. The changes to the Residential Tenancies Act passed through Parliament last month and here’s what it means for renters and landlords.

The ban on soliciting rent bidding means landlords and agents can no longer ask or invite tenants to pay more money to secure an available rental property.

An example of soliciting rent bidding would be, “there are lots of people interested in this property, you can secure it if you offer more rent.

Properties must also be advertised at a set amount and cannot include a price range, or ‘rent from’ figure.

Failure to comply with these laws may attract penalties of up to $10,000 or $50,000 for a corporation.

Consumer Protection will be keeping a watchful eye on landlords and property managers by sending undercover compliance officers posing as would-be tenants along to property inspections to discuss higher rent offers.

Higher rent offers can be accepted if they are offered freely.

If a tenant proposes offering higher rent, the lessor or their agent must respond along the lines, “that is a matter for you and not something I want to comment on. You need to make your own decision about the value of the property and the rent you wish to pay”.

While tenants have always been able to challenge an eviction in the Magistrates Court, the new rules around retaliatory action are now broader.

If a tenant believes their landlord or agent is taking action against them as payback for exercising their rental rights, they can challenge that action in the Magistrate’s Court.

For example, this might be if a tenant thinks their rent was deliberately increased, or their lease agreement not renewed, just because they asked for some basic maintenance or made a complaint about their landlord or agent.

This change gives tenants boosted confidence to stick up for their rights and apply to the Magistrates Court to have decisions by the landlord or agent reversed.

It’s important to note this new reform only covers actions since the 16 May 2024.

These are just the first two reforms of seven.

A second stage of tenancy reforms is expected to take effect in July 2024.

These include reducing the frequency of rent increases to a minimum 12-month intervals, allowing tenants to keep pets or make minor modifications in most circumstances and introducing Commissioner dispute resolution processes.

A streamlined bond release process is expected to be introduced in early 2025.