The Boarding Houses Act 2012 commenced in full on July 1, a long awaited change that will mean that boarding house residents are better protected in law.
RLC has been working for many years to secure greater protections for boarders and lodgers, who are excluded from the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (RTA). This means they cannot rely on that Act for remedies when they are evicted or have their bonds or goods withheld.
The Act was passed in October last year, with some of its provisions commencing earlier this year, including the requirement to register boarding houses. The Boarding Houses Act applies to ‘registrable boarding houses’, which are premises that provide beds for five or more people for a fee. The Act says these premises must be registered, and Fair Trading holds the list of all premises that have registered here.
Importantly for residents, the Act requires proprietors of boarding houses to comply with the occupancy principles, a set of rules setting out the rights and obligations of residents when they live in a boarding house.
The principles include:
That a proprietor must give reasonable written notice before evicting a resident;
How utilities can be charged to a resident;
How a proprietor has to treat a security deposit or bond;
That a proprietor has to provide written receipts for money they receive from a resident.
A proprietor must give a resident a written occupancy agreement and must tell the resident about any house rules before they move in.
The Act also allows residents and proprietors to take action in the Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT) over a dispute, and remedies include orders that a party comply with the occupancy principles, orders for compensation and orders for a resident to access the property to retrieve goods after eviction.
While these protections are a big step for residents, there is still no clear statement about what is ‘reasonable’ notice before evicting a resident. A standard occupancy agreement has been released by Fair Trading, but it doesn’t give binding time periods for notice, just recommendations that a proprietor can choose to adopt. The agreement itself isn’t mandatory either – the proprietor can use their own form of agreement.
There is a three-month period after commencement of the Act to allow proprietors to comply with the new rules. On 1 October 2013 the occupancy principles will become part of all agreements between residents and proprietors of registrable boarding houses, opening up the right for residents to take their dispute to the CTTT if their agreement or arrangement contradicts the principles.
Read RLC’s submission about the Standard Occupancy Agreement for Boarding Houses, and why it needs to contain minimum notice periods, here.
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