What you can and can’t do as a rental tenant
Recent law changes give tenants new freedom to stamp their personality on rental properties. Here’s what you can do.
While it takes a certain flair to turn a house into a home that reflects your individual style, tenants face an additional challenge when trying to stamp their personality on to a rental property. Renters can’t simply rip up a tired old carpet and polish the floorboards to give a room an instant update, nor can they knock out walls to create an airier living space.
But the good news is a raft of recent changes to Victoria’s rental laws make it easier to make a rental property feel more like home. Knocking out walls is still out of the question, but tenants can now install picture hooks, fit water-efficient shower heads and replace the curtains without asking for the landlord’s permission – as long as the property can be returned to its original state when they leave.
Other changes to the Residential Tenancies Act are also good news for renters. Among the 132 amendments that came into effect at the end of March, rental properties are now required to have such items as fitted heaters, locks and functioning stoves and sinks, and the property must be free of mould and have adequate ventilation. Renters also benefit from new rules relating to the handling of urgent repairs, bonds, payment of rent and rent increases.
But while many of the amendments are designed to benefit tenants, those renting are still required to report damage as soon as it occurs, not cause a disturbance, and meet other obligations spelt out in the rental agreement. And crucially, they must leave the property in the same condition, minus wear and tear, as when they signed the lease.
That means that unless there’s a mutual agreement with the landlord to keep that aubergine feature wall, any home decor updates must either be reversed before the tenant vacates the property or the tenant must pay the landlord the cost of doing so.
So, by all means get creative with personalising your rental, but just be aware that you may have to undo your home-decorating handiwork before you vacate. And no matter what you have in mind, it’s important to read your rental agreement carefully and keep an open and cordial relationship with your landlord.