Hot Topics

There are always some particularly Hot Topics within the Property Management industry and we thought we'd keep you, our clients in the loop with what those current Hot Topics are:

 


 

LANDMARK DECISION MADE TO EVICT TENANTS SUBLETTING APARTMENT THROUGH AIRBNB

(Article below from www.afr.com)

A Victorian court decision to evict tenants of aairbnb.png trendy St Kilda apartment who were renting out their home through Airbnb has raised fresh questions on how much sharing is possible in the sharing economy. 

On Friday, a Victorian Supreme Court judge granted Mrs Catherine Swan a possession order to take back her two-bedroom Fitzroy Street apartment.

Justice Clyde Croft ruled Mrs Swan's tenants had effectively sub-let the unit to short-stay guests, thereby breaching their own lease.

While the case hinged on a fine legal point - whether Mrs Swan's tenants were sub-letting or merely licensing the unit to their Airbnb guests - it has also shone a light on the robustness of current leasing arrangements.

Outside court a clearly relieved Mrs Swan recognised the broader significance of the case and said she would make sure future leases specifically excluded the kind of short-stay renting out she had challenged in court.   

"You've got to give landlords certainty. You can't just be leasing out our properties and not knowing what is going on in them," she said..

"It's tenants taking advantage of a gap in the system. I don't know whether you can assign any blame to Airbnb."

The appeal case came after Mrs Swan failed in an earlier bid at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to evict her tenants when she discovered they had Airbnb guests staying.

The VCAT decision rested on whether Airbnb guests in the disputed apartment enjoyed "exclusive possession", the key element in a leasing arrangement.

Significantly, Mrs Swan's legal team pressed their case only for instances where her tenants,  Barbara Uecker and Michael Greaves, had given over the entire two-bedroom to Airbnb guests.

In the end, Justice Croft agreed that in those situations the Airbnb guests were in "exclusive possession" of the Fitzroy Street apartment. 

Aware of how much attention the case has garnered already, Justice Croft took the unusual step of summarising the case for those in court on Friday, cautioning that it should not be seen as a judgment on short-stay operators.

"This is not a case on the merits of Airbnb arrangements," he said. "Neither is it a case on whether or not Airbnb arrangements might be said to be 'illegal' - either in some particular or in some general, non-legal, sense."

The Victorian case comes amid increasing attention on whether and how to regulate the fast-growing short-stay economy created by operators such as Airbnb.

In New South Wales, a a parliamentary inquiry is looking into the adequacy of current regulation, while Victoria is introducing new laws to crack down on landlords whose apartments become short-stay party houses.

The Grattan Institute's Jim Minifie, recently authored a report on the sharing economy which highlighted the benefit of peer-to-peer platforms in creating a more trusting and productive economy.

In his research Dr Minifie found a number of examples where tenants leased properties - in one case a portfolio of apartments -  with the explicit intention of renting them out on Airbnb and with the full knowledge of their landlord.

"It's a microcosm of the way in which a new market model can put pressure on how people have customarily done business and organised their lives", he told The AFR Weekend.

Airbnb itself has been monitoring the Victorian case and said it encourages its hosts to familiarise themselves with local regulations.   

"But one of the things we hear from our hosts and regulators is that these rules are difficult to understand and outdated. In many cases they were written long before the internet even existed," a spokeswoman said. 

Real Estate Institute of Australia president Neville Sanders said the Victorian judgement was a vindication of standard lease clauses that prohibit sub-letting without consent.

"We think the decision is giving back owners the control they deserve and expect." 

But Mr Sanders also noted new kinds of clauses now being included into leases in response to the sharing economy, which allow tenants' friends and relatives to stay while preventing an Airbnb-style arrangement. 

"That type of clause, I suspect, will gain popularity," he said.

 


 

FAMILY VIOLENCE HOUSING TASKFORCE ANNOUNCED

(Article below from www.dhs.vic.gov.au)

Social and private houTaskforce photo.jpgsing experts are joining forces with homelessness and family violence specialists to start addressing the housing challenges facing families fleeing family violence.

Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing Martin Foley announced the makeup of the Family Violence Housing Assistance Implementation Taskforce, set up as one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

The key functions of the taskforce include:

  • Overseeing a process designed to remove blockages in access to family violence crisis accommodation by rapidly rehousing family violence victims living in crisis and transitional accommodation
  • Examining the implementation of stronger models to prevent homelessness, including the delivery of Safe at Home approaches
  • Designing, overseeing and monitoring the first 18-month phase of the proposed expanded Family Violence Flexible Support Packages

The taskforce has also been asked to provide policy advice to guide reform in homelessness, social and affordable housing.

Jenny Smith (CEO, Council to Homeless Persons) will be the Family Violence Housing Assistance Taskforce Chair.

Other members include:

  • Lesley Dredge (EO, Community Housing Federation of Victoria)
  • Mark O’Brien (CEO, Tenants Union of Victoria)
  • Mark Feenane (EO, Victorian Public Tenants Association)
  • Michael Perusco (CEO, Yarra Community Housing)
  • Jenny Samms (CEO, Aboriginal Housing Victoria)
  • Heather Holst (Deputy CEO, Launch Housing)
  • Judy Line (CEO, Women’s Housing)
  • Celia Adams (CEO, Rural Housing Network)
  • Annette Gillespie (CEO, Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre)
  • Alison Macdonald (Policy Manager, Domestic Violence Victoria)
  • Leah Calnan (Director, Real Estate Institute of Victoria) and
  • Jocelyn Bignold (CEO, McAuley Community Services for Women).

'Significant' law change to protect child safety

(by Elyse Perrau - Article below from www.rpmonline.com.au)

Vertical-Blind-Safety.jpgTenancy regulations in one state have been altered and now require tenants to be given “vital information” about potential hazards for children in the rental home.

According to Consumer Protection (WA), changes to the Residential Tenancy Act will come into play on 20 March 2015, and mean tenants must be given an information sheet outlining their “key rights and obligations at the beginning of a new tenancy”.

Commissioner for consumer protection Anne Driscoll said that the forms now contain important safety information related to the dangers of blind or curtain cords and swimming pools.

“Over the years there have been many deaths of children who have been strangled by looped blind or curtain cords and chains,” Ms Driscoll said.

“In response to these tragic events, a range of product safety standards have been introduced and apply to rental properties.”

The Real Estate Institute of WA’s president, David Airey, told Residential Property Manager it had been aware of swimming pool concerns for some time and took the initiative back in October 2014 to have a similar notice on its standard residential lease.

“The health and safety of young children is a prime concern of our community and REIWA is pleased to play a role in bringing increased awareness to tenants,” Mr Airey said.

Also speaking to Residential Property Manager, a spokesperson for the Real Estate Institute of Victoria said, in regards to the law change, “It’s also important for property managers within Victoria – and indeed all states – to be aware of the need for vigilance in regard to swimming pools and safety around the home.

“In this way, the changes in WA are significant and clearly reflect community concerns.”

Metro Property Management director Leah Calnan asked the question, “Where does the responsibility of a property manager end and the consumer responsibility take over?”

“One of things I noticed was the onus on potential hazards to children. There are so many other potential hazardous; what about floor-to-ceiling glass windows, what about staircases, what about fish ponds?” Ms Calnan told Residential Property Manager.

“To make even an owner responsible in highlighting potential hazards for children in a home, is that potentially going to decrease owners wanting to lease properties to children?”

Ms Calnan said if WA is heading down this path, she hopes they run courses or information sessions on the risks and potential hazards out there.

“Are they actually going to articulate what these risks are so it isn’t a free-for-all, frenzy litigation that is going to happen? That is the other part that is scary,” she said.

“I think it is just making sure everyone is aware of when these sorts of changes happen in one state that there's a possibility they will change in other states too.”


Pool & Spa Fencing

Pools.jpgPools and spas and the laws surrounding them are always a Hot Topic in summer. It is important to note that each council (where the investment property is located) will have it's own set of rules to abide by, so please be sure to check the council website of where your property lies.

Our process here at MetroPM is to look for any swimming pools, spas or bodies of water at each property we manage when we conduct either our routine inspections, initial inspections or even when we hold open homes. If a swimming pool, spa or body of water of any kind is spotted that is not compliant a letter is sent to the tenant to remove it or have it comply with their local council laws. We also advise you as the owner of the property of the issue and the action taken by the tenant. We continue to follow up your tenant until the pool or spa is removed or adequate fencing is in place as per the local council laws.

The following information regarding pool & spa requirements are below and have been taken from the www.kidsafevic.com.au website (click here for the direct link to this sites' info).

All swimming pools and spas on residential properties in Victoria with a depth greater than 30cm (300mm) are required to be surrounded by a safety barrier (e.g. a pool fence). There are currently 3 sets of requirements for pool/spa barriers in Victoria - these are based on when your pool or spa was constructed:

• ���Before 8th April 1991
• ���Between 8th April 1991 - 30th April 2010, and;
• ���After 30th April 2010

Below are some important points to help explain the current requirements for pool barriers. Please note that the information below is not exhaustive and is a guide only.

Pool Fencing Laws

• ���If a Victorian residential pool or spa has a depth of 30cm or more (300mm), it is required to be surrounded by safety barrier. This includes inflatable pools.
• ���All pools and spas built after 2010 require a four sided barrier (isolation fence), with no direct access from the house or any other building to the pool or spa.
• ���Safety barriers must be a minimum of 1.2 metres high.
• ���Barrier gates must be self-closing and self-latching.
• ���It is illegal to leave a pool or spa gate propped open.
• ���Climbable objects such as pot plants, eskies, pool pumps and chairs must be moved away from the barrier.

Permits

• ���A building permit is required before installing a new pool, spa, or barrier.
• ���This permit needs to be issued by registered building surveyor.
• ���Building work must start within 12 months of the date that the building permit was issued.
• ���During construction, if a new pool is filled with more than 30cm of water it must have a temporary safety barrier put around it.

Remember that safety barriers such as pool fencing are no substitute for active adult supervision of children around water.

Resources

For more information on the requirements for pool barriers, please visit the fact sheets below:
Victorian Building Authority - About swimming pools, spas and their safety barriers
SPASA Victoria - Pool and spa safety


Section 32 changes - A Legislation Update

LegislationiStock_000016583408Small.jpgBelow is some information from the Consumer Affairs website in regards to changes to the Section 32 Legislation. These important changes come into effect as of the 1st of October 2014. We here at Metro love to keep our clients up to date with important information such as this.

Changes to Victorian laws, to come into effect later this year, will clarify the information that sellers must provide to prospective home buyers.

Conveyancers and legal professionals will also benefit from the changes, to section 32 of the Sale of Land Act 1962, scheduled to come into effect on 1 October. The changes are outlined in the Sale of Land Amendment Act 2014.

The section 32 statement (also called the ‘vendor’s statement’) outlines the information a property seller must provide prospective buyers, such as the name of the relevant planning scheme and details of any undischarged mortgages or charges applying to the land. This information is provided in a section 32 statement.

The Sale of Land Amendment Act repeals section 32 and re-enacts the majority of its disclosure requirements. The re-enacted disclosure requirements are grouped under key themes and clarify the operation of certain requirements.

Key changes to section 32 statements include:

clarifying planning information to be disclosed

tightening requirements to ensure only government notices and approved proposals that currently and directly affect the land for sale are disclosed

updating requirements for disclosing livestock disease and agricultural contamination notices

providing greater flexibility to vendor of land affected by owners corporations

limiting disclosure of essential services to only those services that are not connected to the land for sale

codifying common practice by replacing requirements for a copy of the Certificate of Title with a copy of the Register Search Statement and the document referenced in that Statement that shows the location of the land for sale.

Under the changes, section 32 statements will have to be simpler and easier for conveyancers and lawyers to prepare. Sellers will no longer have to include a second copy of the section 32 statement in the contract of sale.

Due diligence checklist

From 1 October 2014, sellers, or estate agents acting on their behalf, are required to make a ‘due diligence’ checklist available to prospective buyers at open for inspections.

The checklist provides prospective buyers with a tool to make their own enquiries into issues of interest to them when they first start looking at properties.

(Source: consumer.vic.gov.au/news-and-events/news-updates/section-32-changes-legislation-update...and to view the Due Diligence Checklist visit this link.)


The many houses of Parliament: property-rich pollies 'have vested interest' in high prices

PriceRiseiStock_000018639982XSmall.jpgWritten by Simon Johanson, Property Editor for The Age (6/08/2014) Click here for the original article

Australia’s political elite are among the country’s most enthusiastic real estate investors, with records showing one freeholding Nationals member owns 50 properties and another holds 17.

Federal politicians on average own 2.5 properties each, or an estimated $300 million worth of land holdings, analysis of their interests shows.

Landed Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan is Parliament’s biggest property owner, with a 50-strong investment portfolio. He rubs shoulders with Nationals property baron David Gillespie, who owns 17 holdings.

Billionaire Clive Palmer is also high on the landowner list, with 12 properties to his name, although his mortgage register remains unclear, according to the breakdown of politicians' interests by property authors Lindsay David, Paul Egan and Philip Soos.

Independent South Australian senator Nick Xenophon maintains an impressive portfolio of eight investment properties, and high-profile Liberal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull owns a similar number.

Only 13, or 6 per cent, of Parliament’s 226 members own no real estate.

The analysis comes as Australia’s home values reach new heights, with the latest data showing prices rising again in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

Values in Sydney grew over the year to July by 14.8 per cent, while Melbourne’s rose 11 per cent, RP Data figures show.

The combination of high property prices and lack of political action to make housing more affordable prompted the authors of the analysis to ask: “Are the property holdings of our federal politicians negatively influencing policy and causing them to ignore evidence?”

‘‘The trends in the data suggest a sizeable majority of federal politicians have a vested interest in maintaining high housing prices,’’ the authors said.

The analysis shows the top 10 landholders in Parliament own 92 properties. Between them federal politicians own 563 properties.


Coroner says gas appliances should be checked every two years after carbon monoxide deaths of Chase and Tyler Robinson

We came across this very sad article on the Herald Sun website on 30th July (click here for the actual article)

By Padraic Murphy (The Herald Sun)

Chase, 8, and Tyler Robinson, 6, were found dead in their Mooroopna rental property on May 30 2010 by their mother Vanessa after she woke up disoriented and with a severe pain in her left arm.

Coroner Jacinta Heffey today found the boys had died from carbon monoxide produced by a poorly serviced gas wall heater.

The poisonous, colourless and odourless gas had been drawn into to the house by exhaust fans and settled in the room where the boys were sleeping with their mother.

Ms Heffey stopped short of recommending legislative changes to maintenance laws, but recommended the Real Estate Institute of Victoria implement checks of appliances every two years in rental agreements at the expense of landlords.

Ms Heffey found the faulty wall heater had not been serviced since at least 2004 or 2005, but did not find that landlords Jeffrey and Tracey Watt had contributed to the boys' deaths.

"I consider that most people in the community prior to this tragic event would not have had any idea of the danger represented by the combination of unclean gas furnace and extraction fans," Ms Heffey said.

However, the coroner criticised an unknown tradesman who had serviced the gas heater in 2004 or 2005.

"Either he was not a licensed gasfitter or he was negligent in the performance of his task," Ms Heffey found.

The coroner also recommended Energy Safe Victoria continue public safety awareness campaigns about gas appliances and the dangers of installing exhaust fans.

 


 

Copper Thefts

This month there seems to be a distinct rise in the theft of Copper in and around Melbourne. Residential Property Manager online tells us about this rise in thefts affecting both Owners and Tenants in this article (Click on the logo below to be taken to the article)