Minimum housing standards legislation passed by Parliament

Minimum housing standards legislation passed by Parliament

Last week the Queensland Parliament passed the Housing Legislation (Building Better Futures) Amendment Bill, giving the Government virtually unlimited powers to prescribe any minimum standards for rental accommodation, and to be applied retrospectively.

The Housing Legislation (Building Better Futures) Amendment Bill 2017 attaches to several acts of Parliament at once, including the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008, the Housing Act 2003, the Manufactured Homes (Residential Parks) Act 2003, the Residential Services (Accreditation) Act 2002, and the Retirement Villages Act 1999.

The sweeping changes outlined in the amendment cover a broad range of issues, including site fee and fee-increase regulation, cooling off periods for residents buying into retirement villages, and a vast array of minimum housing standards including sanitation, energy efficiency of the property, ventilation, cleanliness and repair, protection from damp, the dimensions of rooms, laundry and cooking facilities, privacy and security, water supply, storage facilities, and lighting.

The REIQ, as previously outlined in a recent blog post, supports the principle that everyone has the right to safe, habitable accommodation. It is a fundamental, basic human right that we most strenuously support and our work over the years with many levels of government is testament to our record.

REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella said that our objection to this bill had been mischaracterised by some members of the Parliament.

“The reason we objected to these amendments was simply that the Government has given itself powers to set a minimum standard without outlining what those minimums are. It has sought to give itself far-reaching powers without any checks and balances.

“The concerning issue is that these minimum standards – whatever they may be – are retrospective and this will apply to all rental accommodation, to every owner, every investor and landlord, immediately. The cost for even one landlord to make the property energy efficient to the government’s standards could be prohibitive. We simply argued for more sensible ways to achieve the same goal – safety and security for every Queenslander in rented accommodation.”

In the second reading of the Bill, Member for Redlands, Matt McEachan echoed the concerns that the REIQ outlined in its submission: “In essence, the legislation is an open book on what the minimum standards will be and they can be delivered through a head of power under regulation,” he said.

“There is no scrutiny by this Parliament of those minimum standards. As I see it the problem is that the bulk of the rental market is provided by private investors. We are saying to the market, ‘You are going to have to change the minimal standards on a whole host of things that are yet to be described’. For me, that means that there will be significant investor risk. Under those circumstances I would not consider investing in a rental property.”

Instead of these vague, overreaching powers, the REIQ offered a more sensible solution that did not risk onerous financial impost on investors and achieved the same outcome.

Ms Mercorella said: “We advocated that the lessor (the landlord) commission a health and safety inspection for every rental property.”

“The health and safety report should be completed by a licenced building professional and should address whether the residence complies with all relevant building codes, with regard to the age and structure of the dwelling,” she said.

“If the dwelling does not comply, the report will provide a recommendation on the work required to make the property compliant and the report should also be made available to the tenant prior to taking the tenancy.”

The REIQ solution accommodates landlords and property managers while offering tenants the same security of safe rental accommodation that complies with all existing building codes and regulations.