In the news today: how changes proposed in the draft Residential Tenancies Bill are 'the key to chaos', because they will require agents and landlords to act not unreasonably if tenants ask their consent to subletting or making minor alterations to the premises.
All manner of doom and woe is predicted by the Real Estate Institute should such a measure come to pass: landlords 'will not be able to afford the risk of renting and sell up, leaving Sydney's already tight market shorter still.' (What, they're going to knock the houses down when they go?) The viability of the rental property sector, the REI seems to be saying, depends on the ability of landlords and agents to act unreasonably; that is to say, without recourse to rational thought.
Actually, the changes proposed in the draft Bill are not terribly revolutionary - in fact, they are really quite modest and in some respects allow landlords and agents to continue acting unreasonably.
Here's what the draft Bill says in relation to tenants' requests to make alterations:
- if the alteration would be more than 'minor or cosmetic', the landlord may refuse consent, including unreasonably. In other words, in these cases landlords would retain their current right to refuse to give the request any thought and reject it out of hand, or to reject it for daft reasons (eg my astrologer says the proposed alteration is inauspicious; the tenant was wearing a green shirt when he asked, and that's an ill omen).
- if the alteration would be minor or cosmetic, the landlord may refuse consent, but not unreasonably. If the tenant disagrees with the landlord's decision, they can apply to the Tribunal to have the dispute resolved (which is better than the tenant simply going ahead and doing the disputed alteration).
- if the transfer or sublet would be for the whole tenancy (ie all the original tenants would be moving out and an entirely new lot of persons would be moving in), landlords may refuse consent, including unreasonably.
- if the transfer or sublet is only partial (ie one or more of the original tenants would be staying on with the new person moving in), landlords may refuse consent, but not unreasonably. The draft Bill goes on to expressly provide that it is reasonable to refuse consent where the landlord would not have accepted the proposed new person for a tenancy in the first place. As with minor or cosmetic alterations, disputes about refused consent may be resolved by the Tribunal.
All in all, this amounts to a pretty gentle introduction to the Age of Reason for landlords and agents.