MINIMUM HOUSING STANDARDS
February 23, 2023
The Housing Legislation Amendment Act 2021 which came into effect on October 20, 2021, has introduced changes to the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008. The changes are being introduced in stages to facilitate a smooth transition and give the sector sufficient time to prepare.
This article focuses on changes in relation to minimum housing standards (MHS) and their impact on those who live, work, and invest in community titles schemes in Queensland. The MHS is set to commence on September 1, 2023, for any new tenancy agreements. For all existing tenancy agreements, the changes will commence on September 1, 2024.
The MHS has been implemented to ensure that all Queensland rental properties meet basic safety, security, and functionality standards. Although the body corporate legislation has not been amended, we anticipate that these reforms will still impact bodies corporate.
Although the MHS reforms will not commence for some time, we recommend that property managers and owners begin taking steps as soon as possible towards fulfilling their obligations. Prompt action is even more important if an owner is depending on the body corporate to do the maintenance required to meet the MHS for their rental property. For instance, if the cost of the work is more than the committee’s spending limit, the owner may need to submit a motion to an annual general meeting (AGM) of their body corporate for a decision. If an owner misses the deadline for submitting their motions to the AGM, more time and effort may be involved in trying to get an extraordinary general meeting called to vote on the motions.
From the outset, it should be stressed that body corporate maintenance obligations have not changed. However, bodies corporate may expect an increase in the number of maintenance requests they receive, as several of the obligations placed on owners of rental properties under the new MHS overlap with existing body corporate obligations.
We will highlight a few of the key overlapping responsibilities, with a focus on schemes registered under a building format plan of subdivision (BFP). The amendments are likely to have minimal impact on schemes registered under a standard format plan of subdivision (SFP), as bodies corporate have substantially less responsibility for maintenance under this plan type.
Weatherproof and structurally sound
Owners are required to ensure their rental property is ‘weatherproof’ under the MHS. This means that the roofing and windows should prevent water from entering when it rains. In BFP schemes, the body corporate is normally responsible for maintaining the roofing membrane, as well as windows and doors, and their fittings if they are in a boundary wall separating the lot from common property.
The rental property must also be ‘structurally sound’ under the MHS. Under a BFP, the body corporate is already required to maintain the essential structural elements of the building in a structurally sound condition.
Locks on windows and doors
Under the MHS, the rental property must have functioning locks on all external windows and doors that are accessible from the outside (without using a ladder), to secure the property against unauthorised entry.
As previously mentioned, under a BFP, the body corporate is normally responsible for maintaining windows, doors, and their ‘associated fittings’, if they are in a boundary wall between the lot and common property. This means, in specified situations, an owner may approach the body corporate about existing locks or latches on windows or doors that have not been maintained. However, if the locks or latches are owner improvements – for instance, an upgrade or a change made by an owner – it is usually the owner’s responsibility to maintain their own improvements.
Damp and mould
The owner must, under the MHS, ensure that the rental property is free of damp and mould, unless the tenant has caused the damp or mould.
While an owner is normally responsible for maintenance inside the property under a BFP, if there is damp and mould on internal walls and ceiling that has been caused by the body corporate not maintaining the common property in good condition, responsibility for the damp and mould may rest with the body corporate.
Under the MHS, the property must have adequate plumbing and drainage for the relevant number of occupiers and be connected to a water supply service or other infrastructure that supplies suitable drinking water (both hot and cold). The toilet must also be connected to a sewer, septic system, or other waste disposal system.
These requirements may overlap with the body corporate’s obligation to maintain certain utility infrastructure such as pipes or drains. Utility infrastructure that is not within the boundaries of an owner’s lot is generally maintained by the body corporate (unless the utility infrastructure falls within certain exceptions). This means the body corporate may be responsible for maintaining existing connections located outside the boundaries of the rental property – provided they are not owner improvements that the owner is responsible for.
You can read more about utility infrastructure maintenance for community titles schemes on our website.
Information for owners of rental properties
There is a further obligation on owners under the MHS to ensure that there are privacy coverings for windows in all rooms where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. Examples of ‘privacy coverings’ include blinds, curtains, tinting and glass frosting.
Changes to the appearance of a lot are normally regulated by the scheme’s by-laws. As by-laws change from body corporate to body corporate, we advise owners to check their body corporate’s by-laws before making any alterations to their rental property, as they may need to seek approval or comply with other requirements about appearance.
Information for bodies corporate
As we have highlighted already, the body corporate does not have any extra obligations with regards to MHS. Nonetheless, it is advisable that bodies corporate carry out their maintenance responsibilities in a timely manner where practicable. Being proactive is likely to reduce the potential for the body corporate being inundated with requests from owners. Bodies corporate should give themselves enough time to carry out necessary work and to raise funds if the expenses have not been budgeted for.
In addition to maintenance obligations, the legislation also requires the body corporate to act reasonably in anything it does.
Owners and bodies corporate should be working together to comply with the MHS and existing maintenance obligations under the relevant body corporate legislation, thereby avoiding unnecessary disputes. The bottom line for owners and bodies corporate is that the faster you act, the more time there is to negotiate any speed bumps that may pop up unexpectedly along the way.
This article was contributed by Commissioner for Body Corporate and Community Management