WA government introduces new tenancy reforms aimed at creating stability in long-term rental market


New tenancy reforms to provide certainty and stability to the long-term rental market have been slammed for not going far enough and “making things worse for renters”.

On Wednesday, the WA government announced a raft of new laws to the Residential Tenancies Act that included $8.9m in funding to streamline dispute resolution for renters and property owners.

The funding, which will be made available in the next state budget, will support the Consumer Protection Commissioner to enhance their role in the dispute resolution processes rather than having disputes go through the Magistrates Court.

The commissioner’s role would include disputes over bond payments, tenant applications to keep pets and minor modifications to homes that would allow tenants to hang pictures on walls or create vegetable gardens.

Under the new changes to the Act, rent bidding will be banned and the frequency of rent increases will be limited to once per year, instead of every six months.

South Metropolitan Region MLC Brad Pettit said the reforms did nothing to address the ongoing housing crisis in WA.

On Tuesday, Mr Pettit tried to push through two amendments to the Act that would have seen an end to no-ground evictions in WA, but it did not pass.

WA, along with the Northern Territory, are now the only jurisdictions in Australia where a renter can be evicted for no valid reason.

Mr Pettit said by limiting rent increases to once per year simply meant struggling renters would be slugged with a massive increase in one go.

“Doing nothing to reform no reason evictions from private rentals or public housing is a complete betrayal of WA renters but should come as no surprise,” he said.

“The WA government is the largest landlord in the state and they regularly use no reason evictions in their own public housing tenancies.

“By ignoring their immediate needs — financial relief and threat of eviction — this government has effectively written off the 700,000 renters in Western Australia as second class citizens.

“With an election in less than 12 months, the WA Labor government should be worried about their own security of tenure — they’ve given us plenty of reasons to evict them.”

Premier Roger Cook said given the current market conditions, they knew some tenants in WA were doing it tough – which was why they acted to take the pressure off and provide more stability and certainty.

“These reforms will help thousands of Western Australians to feel more at home in their rental properties and know that rent rises will be restricted to once every twelve months, instead of every six months,” he said.

“Now that the legislation has passed parliament, we are providing $8.9m through our upcoming state budget to establish an improved dispute resolution process for both owners and renters.

“We’re also focused on delivering initiatives such as our reforms to short-term rental accommodation, to boost supply and help bring more houses onto the rental market.”

Real Estate Institute of WA chief executive officer Cath Hart welcomed the reforms.

“The passing of the Act gives tenants, investors and industry certainty and allows us to move forward,” she said.

“We particularly appreciate the commitment to provide extra funding for the new streamlined dispute resolution process — something REIWA called for in our pre-budget submission.”

Housing Minister John Carey said the reforms provided certainty for landlords, industry and potential investors in the rental market.

“The new laws will strike a balance between improving the rights of tenants, while also improving the rights of mum and dad investors,” he said.