Changes to Tenancy Laws in Queensland Come into Effect: What Landlords and Tenants Need to Know 

As many people in the property industry know, Queensland’s tenancy laws have recently undergone extensive revisions, as outlined in the recent legislative updates from Living Property Management. These changes, enacted to foster a fairer and more transparent rental market, affect several aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship, from outlawing rent bidding to changing how rental bonds are handled. 

It is imperative for both landlords and tenants to stay well-informed about these revisions, some of which passed into law in late May as part of the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024. Doing so will not only ensure compliance but also deliver a healthier environment in the rental market.  

1. Rent Bidding is Prohibited 

The new Queensland tenancy laws have introduced stringent measures against rent bidding in a significant shift from previous practices. Rent bidding, where prospective tenants are invited to offer more than the advertised rental price to secure a property, is now strictly prohibited.  

This ensures that all rental properties must be advertised with a fixed price, eliminating ambiguity and preventing the escalation of rental costs in competitive markets. This regulation creates a level playing field, ensuring that properties are accessible based on the listed price rather than a tenant’s ability to pay more. 

2. Rental Increases Limited to Once Every 12 Months 

Under the revised tenancy laws in Queensland, rental increases have been significantly updated to ensure fairness and stability in the housing market.  

The new stipulations restrict landlords from increasing rent more than once every twelve months. Notably, any increase is now linked directly to the property rather than the individual tenancy. This means that rent can only be raised once per year regardless of tenant turnover, providing tenants with a predictable and stable rental rate for the duration of their occupancy.  

Additionally, all rental agreements must explicitly record the date of the last rent increase, ensuring transparency and accountability. Tenants can also request to see documented evidence of this, and landlords must respond with that evidence within 14 days. However, suppose a property has changed ownership within the last 12 months, and the new owner lacks information on previous rent adjustments. This requirement would be waived in that case, acknowledging practical limitations in information continuity. 

The legislation does provide certain exemptions where these restrictions on rental increases do not apply. Specifically, property managers, owners, and agents who meet the criteria set forth as “exempt” by the Act are not bound by the minimum period requirement to increase rent. This exemption is designed to accommodate special situations where the standard rules might not be practical, thus offering flexibility to certain landlords under specific conditions. 

Additionally, the legislation addresses situations of “undue hardship” where a landlord might need to increase the rent within the 12-month interval. In such cases, landlords can apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) for permission to raise the rent. The tribunal considers the tenant’s ability to afford the increase and other relevant circumstances, ensuring that any adjustments are justifiable and mindful of tenant welfare.  

3. Rent Payment Practices Updated 

The new tenancy laws in Queensland have introduced crucial changes to how rent payments are regulated. Under the new rules, the maximum rent that can be paid in advance varies depending on the type of tenancy agreement. For periodic tenancies and movable dwelling agreements, the limit is set at two weeks’ rent in advance. For fixed tenancy agreements, the maximum upfront payment is capped at one month’s rent.  

In addition to capping advance rent payments, the legislation also mandates that landlords offer at least two rent payment methods that do not incur any additional fees. This requirement prevents tenants from being penalised financially for the method of payment they choose. 

4. Re-Letting Costs and Bond Processed Revised 

The recent amendments to Queensland’s tenancy laws have introduced significant changes to the calculation of re-letting costs and the procedures involved with rental bonds. 

Re-letting Costs 

Re-letting costs are now calculated based on the remaining term of the tenancy agreement. This method aims to make the costs fairer, aligning them more closely with the actual time left on the agreement. If the fixed-term agreement is shorter than three years, the calculated re-letting costs will be proportionately less, reducing the financial burden on tenants who need to move out before their lease expires. 

Bond Processes 

As mentioned, the bond process has been significantly overhauled. Below is a summary of the changes landlords and tenants must be aware of to remain compliant with the new laws.  

  • Maximum Bond Limits: The law now restricts the maximum bond that can be requested to no more than four weeks’ rent, standardising bond requirements across the state and preventing excessive upfront costs for tenants. 
  • Refund Protocols: Changes have been made to how bonds are refunded, particularly involving commercial bond loan suppliers. This includes provisions for tenants to request refunds of bonds paid over the maximum amount before the new regulations took effect. 
  • Bond Lodgment for Rooming Accommodation: For properties where the owner lives and rents out no more than three rooms, bonds must be lodged for each individual room, including in student accommodation settings. 
  • Handling Bond Disputes: In cases where a bond dispute is dismissed or withdrawn at the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT), the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) can release the bond as originally requested by the managing party. 
  • Evidence Requirement: Managing parties must provide tenants with supporting evidence within 14 days when making a bond claim or disputing a bond. This ensures transparency and aids in the swift resolution of disputes. 

5. Privacy and Access for Tenants Bolstered 

The recent legislative changes in Queensland have significantly bolstered privacy protections for tenants, particularly regarding landlord entries and the collection of personal information. 

  • Extended Notice Periods: The minimum entry notice period that landlords must provide before entering a tenant’s dwelling has been increased from 24 to 48 hours. 
  • Restrictions on Entry Frequency: New limits have been set on how often landlords can enter a property once they have issued a notice to end the tenancy. This measure is intended to prevent excessive inspections and ensure tenants enjoy their living space without undue disturbance during the notice period. 
  • Installation and Maintenance of Smoke Alarms: Specific provisions have been added to allow landlords entry into rooming accommodations to install, maintain, or repair smoke alarms. This ensures safety compliance while also respecting tenant privacy. 
  • Protection of Personal Information: The amendments also introduce stricter controls on the personal information landlords can request and collect from tenants.  

These enhancements to privacy and access rules reflect a commitment to upholding tenant rights while balancing landlords’ necessary operational needs.  

6. Updates to Utility Charges and Disclosure of Financial Benefits 

The updated tenancy laws in Queensland have also introduced new measures concerning utility charges and the disclosure of financial benefits by managing parties.  

For utility charges, the new regulations mandate that tenants must receive their utility bills within four weeks following the billing cycle unless the landlord or managing party has a valid and reasonable excuse for any delay.  

Additionally, the reforms address the calculation of water charges, stipulating new guidelines for how these charges should be prorated when a tenancy begins or ends mid-billing period. This adjustment aims to distribute water costs related to actual tenancy periods fairly, preventing disputes over billing and payments. 

Furthermore, the legislation now requires landlords and managing parties to fully disclose any financial benefits they receive related to rent payments. This includes commissions or incentives from third parties that are linked to the payment methods tenants use. 

7. New Guidelines for End of Tenancy Practices 

The guidelines for ending tenancies provide clearer rules for specific situations, including moveable dwellings and the termination of a community title scheme. 

The legislation specifies procedures for concluding short tenancies for moveable dwellings, ensuring that both tenants and landlords have a clear understanding of their obligations. Additionally, in scenarios where a community title scheme is terminated, new guidelines have been set to facilitate a smooth transition and closure of tenancies.  

The revised laws also address handling goods left behind by tenants, requiring managing parties to contact former tenants regarding their belongings and outlining a transparent process for advertising these stored goods.  

Landlords and tenants are encouraged to familiarise themselves with these new provisions to ensure compliance and understanding of their rights and responsibilities when a tenancy ends. 

8. Enforcement and Compliance Measures Beefed Up 

The recent revisions to Queensland’s tenancy laws have led to the establishment of new regulations and strengthened enforcement measures to ensure compliance with the updated standards. These measures include the development of three new “Heads of Power,” which are set to oversee the implementation of a new portable bond scheme, a rental sector code of conduct, and the handling of applications for property modifications related to safety, security, or accessibility. These new regulatory bodies will play a crucial role in ensuring that the updated laws are adhered to and effectively managed. 

In addition to the establishment of new regulatory frameworks, there has been an expansion in the powers of the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA). The RTA now has enhanced capabilities to share information with other regulatory bodies, such as the Office of Fair Trading, to ensure a coordinated approach to oversight and compliance.  

The stakes for non-compliance have been raised significantly for landlords and agents. Introducing new offence provisions enables the RTA to take more robust enforcement actions against those who fail to adhere to the laws. Providing false or misleading information to the RTA now carries specific penalties, underscoring the importance of transparency and accuracy in all dealings within the rental market.  

Stay Informed and Compliant with New Tenancy Laws 

As we navigate these extensive updates to Queensland’s tenancy laws, it’s crucial for both landlords and tenants to understand and strictly adhere to the new regulations, ensuring you are in line with the latest rental reforms. Familiarising yourself with the legal ways to list property for rent and the stipulations on rental increases and bond processes is essential for maintaining compliance and fostering a fair rental market. 

If you’re unsure about any aspect of the new laws or need assistance ensuring your rental practices are compliant, do not hesitate to contact Living Property Management. Our team is dedicated to providing guidance and support to help you navigate these changes smoothly. 

We encourage all involved in the rental market, including tenants, to stay proactive and informed. Keeping abreast of these changes helps avoid potential legal issues and ensures that the renting experience is transparent and equitable for everyone. And, of course, Living Property Management is here to assist you in implementing these new legal requirements, every step of the way.