Queensland’s housing department says “best practice” advice given by the state’s peak real estate body that would see every renter issued with notice to leave at the start of their lease is “disappointing” and “not in the spirit” of rent reforms.
But the tenants’ union is calling for the state government to go further, urging them to restrict the issuing of “Form 12s” and make it harder for renters to be removed without reason.
Reforms coming into effect from October are designed to remove no-grounds evictions. But in an effort to ”strike the right balance between renters and rental property owner interests” they also add new grounds upon which to end a lease.
A landlord will be able to end a lease because they want to move into, renovate or sell their property, but also because a fixed-term lease agreement – but not a periodic lease – has come to an end.
The chief executive of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ), Antonia Mercorella, told the Guardian on Thursday the removal of “without grounds” as a reason to end a lease left her organisation with “no choice” but to advise property managers get all renters on to a fixed-term lease and issue them a notice to leave at the start of every tenancy.
Since then Mercorella has doubled down on that advice. Issuing a statement purporting to set the record straight, Mercorella said that the blanket issuing of Form 12s to renters would now be necessary in order to confirm the agreed end date of the tenancy agreement.
If a property manager did not issue a Form 12 at least two clear calendar months’ prior to the end date of a fixed term tenancy agreement, the renter would default into a periodic agreement.
That means if a property manager with a tenant on a fixed-term lease failed to “provide a Form 12 within the required timeframe” they would move to a periodic and “effectively inherit a tenant for life”.
It is not an argument that appears to have gone down well in the Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy.
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A spokesperson said the government was aware of reports of the advice.
“While not unlawful under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 this is disappointing and is not in the spirit of the reforms,” the spokesperson said.
Nor was it “consistent with the stated policy objectives” that were supposed “to support renters enforce their existing rights without fear of retaliatory action, provide greater certainty for renters by ensuring tenancies are only ended for identified reasons and ensure parties receive reasonable and workable notice that the tenancy agreement will end”.
The spokesperson said the practice of issuing Form 12s at the start of a tenancy was not only “causing unnecessary stress for renters” but could also and could also incur additional costs for landlords having to replace renters they may otherwise have retained.
“Long term tenancies benefit renters through stable and secure housing and rental property owners through stable income and fewer costs,” the spokesperson said.
Tenants Queensland’s chief executive, Penny Carr, said the government should immediately act to restrict the “end of a fixed term” clause for terminating a lease to the first term of a tenancy, and restrict the issuing of the notices to leave to within one month of the end of any tenancy agreement.
Carr also called on the real estate peak body to issue a public apology to Queensland renters “bearing the impacts from their outrageous actions”.
Mercorella says Tenants Queensland is “using this as an opportunity” to advocate for changes “they wanted and didn’t get” under the reforms.