The Vic Govt Is Cracking Down On Dodgy Landlords, Here’s What It Means For You & Yr Shit Sitch

The Victorian government has announced it is introducing a rental taskforce to crack down on dodgy landlords, but more needs to be done to ensure renter’s living standards are up to scratch.

Minister for Consumer Affairs Gabrielle Williams announced the taskforce on Tuesday, saying it would increase prosecution of offences such as false advertising, renting out properties that don’t meet minimum standards, and not lodging bonds.

Legal minimum standards include things that you would reasonably expect in a home, like a functioning kitchen, a lockable front door, and it actually being structurally sound and waterproof. Sure, such requests sound reasonable, but many landlords will fight tooth and nail to avoid even fixing an oven.

The taskforce will have boots on the ground in the next few months and will head out to flat viewings, as well as react to complaints from tenants, to ensure legal minimum standards are being met.

Speaking to PEDESTRIAN.TV, renter’s advocate Jordan van den Berg (AKA Purplepingers) said that while it was a welcome announcement, more needed to be done in terms of actual reform.

“It’s a step in the right direction for sure, but at the end of the day it is just an announcement at this stage,” he said.

“In terms of rental reform, there’s so much more that is needed. This isn’t any kind of reform whatsoever, this is just ‘were going to start actually enforcing the laws that we made’.

“But it’s definitely nice to see that the government has decided to fund the agency to finally do their job instead of renters. It’s not fair that renters have to be their own rental cops, so any kind of assistance for renters is a win in my book.”

The days of landlords painting over mould could be over. Image: Getty.

After all, just because a landlord is doing everything legally doesn’t mean that house is great to live in, and with no cause evictions still legal in Victoria many renters are scared to request maintenance at fear of losing their home.

As for whether the task force would actually work, Van den Berg said we would just have to see “how hard they go”.

“If there’s some big prosecutions as soon as the taskforce is set up I think that’ll provide quite a major deterrent for real estate agents and landlords doing the wrong thing,” he said.

“But if they see that nothing really happens they’ll keep doing what they are now, which is renting properties that are illegal.”

The taskforce has received $4 million in funding and will take a couple of months to get rolling, with consumer affairs saying it will use “intelligence and market analysis to boost monitoring of rental campaigns, conduct targeted inspections and act on identified breaches”.

However, Van den Berg says until a penalty becomes more than fines, landlords will continue to rent out dodgy homes.

“They’ve said in their announcement that this is a criminal offence, and any crime that is punishable by a fine just means that crime is legal for a rich person,” he said.

“So it’s not enough. You’ve got to make the fine actually significant, like a portion of the income, or you’ve got to provide a naturally harsh penalty.

“$11,000 for a real estate agent renting out a property that could kill someone, that’s not acceptable. That’s not enough.”

Ultimately, we shouldn’t need rental cops to ensure people aren’t living in squalor. But given landlords seem physically unable to do the right thing, it’s a welcome move. Now let’s just get it rolled out nationally.