Making modifications in rental properties guide

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Under the new rental laws, renters can make certain modifications to their homes without the consent of the rental provider (landlord). To make other modifications renters will need the consent of their rental provider. All modifications need to be reversed at the end of the rental agreement, unless otherwise agreed with the rental provider.

What modifications can a renter make without seeking the rental provider’s consent?

For rented premises that are not listed under the Heritage Act 2017 (this must be disclosed before signing the rental agreement), renters can make the following modifications without needing the rental provider’s consent:  

  • picture hooks or screws for wall mounts, shelves or brackets on surfaces other than brick walls, 
  • wall anchoring devices on surfaces other than brick walls to secure items of furniture, 
  • LED light globes which do not require new light fittings, 
  • low flow shower heads if the original shower head is kept, 
  • blind or cord anchors, 
  • hardware mounted child safety gates on walls other than brick walls, 
  • security lights, alarm systems or security cameras that:
    • do not impact on the privacy of neighbours, 
    • can easily be removed from the rented premises, and 
    • are not hardwired to the rented premises. 

For properties under the Heritage Act 2017, property owners will need to seek a permit.  

The following modifications can be made by renters without consent in all properties, including heritage properties:  

non-permanent window film for insulation, reduced heat transfer or privacy,

  • a wireless doorbell,  
  • replacement curtains if the original curtains are retained by the renter,  
  • adhesive child safety locks on drawers and doors,  
  • pressure mounted child safety gates,  
  • a lock on a letterbox.  

What types of modifications require the rental provider’s consent?

For all other modifications, the renter must get the rental provider’s permission before starting the work.

Are there rules about how the rental provider must consider modification requests?

Yes. The rental provider must have a reasonable reason to refuse any of the following modifications: 

  • ones that do not penetrate or permanently change surfaces, fixtures or the structure of the property (for example, nails) 
  • ones that are required for health and safety purposes. For example, an anti-tilt strap for a bookshelf 
  • ones that are reasonable disability-related modifications under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. An occupational therapist or other specified practitioner must have determined they are necessary (or example, grab rails or hand rails) 
  • ones that ensure access to telecommunications services such as internet, TV or phone 
  • ones that are reasonable security measures such as security screens and deadlatches 
  • ones that are necessary to ensure the safety of a renter who has been or is subject to family violence by another party to the rental agreement 
  • ones that are necessary to ensure the safety of a renter who is a protected person under a personal safety intervention order made against another party to the rental agreement. For example, a deadlatch on an external door 
  • ones that are necessary to increase the thermal comfort or reduce the energy and water usage costs for the property 
  • picture hooks or screws for wall mounts, shelves and brackets on brick walls,  
  • hardware mounted child safety gates 
  • wall anchoring devices on brick walls to secure items of furniture 
  • draughtproofing in homes without open flued gas heating, including installing weather seals, caulking or gap filling around windows, doors, skirting and floorboards 
  • a security system (installed by suitably qualified person) which does not impact on the privacy of neighbours if an invoice with the name of the installer is provided to the residential rental provider at the time the consent is requested 
  • flyscreens on doors and windows 
  • a vegetable or herb garden 
  • a secure letterbox  
  • painting of the premises 
  • a dishwasher 
  • a pet door 
  • modifications to secure external gates
  • any modification which contributes to the conservation of a registered place and is proposed to be undertaken in accordance with Part 5 of the Heritage Act 2017.  

What is a reasonable reason for refusing consent?

The refusal must be sound, fair and sensible. For example, it would be reasonable for a rental provider to refuse to consent to a modification that would break the owners corporation rules, or a modification that the renter would not be able to reverse. 

The Act specifically provides the rental provider with the right to refuse consent in the following circumstances: 

  • if a valid notice to vacate has been given to the renter on the grounds of an upcoming change of possession, use or ownership of the rented premises, 
  • if the modification would significantly change the premises or require modifications to other premises or common areas, 
  • if the modification would result in non-compliance with any other Act or law (for example, the Building Act 1993), 
  • if the modification will result in additional maintenance costs for the rental provider if it is not reversed by the renter at the end of the rental agreement, or 
  • if reversing the modifications would not be reasonably practicable in the circumstances. 

This would not apply where the modifications are reasonable under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and an occupational therapist or registered health practitioner has determined they are required. 

If a renter believes consent has been unreasonably refused, they can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to review the decision. VCAT must hear the application within five days. 

Can a rental provider impose conditions for approval of a modification?

Yes. As a condition of their consent, the rental provider may require that the modification be completed by a suitably qualified person (for example, a licensed electrician).

The rental provider can also ask the renter to pay additional bond money to cover the cost of reversing the modification in certain circumstances where it would be proportionate and reasonable.

Do renters need to reverse the modifications made to the property?

Before the end of the rental agreement, the renter must reverse the modifications (fair wear or tear excepted) or pay the rental provider for the cost of reversing them, unless both parties have agreed otherwise.

Can residents of a rooming house, caravan park or residential park make modifications to their room, caravan or site?

The operator’s consent is required for any modifications in these tenancy types.

However, operators cannot unreasonably withhold consent if an occupational therapist has determined that reasonable disability-related modifications are necessary. 

The new rental laws apply from 29 March 2021.