Evictions are, obviously, a contentious subject.
Many tenants live in fear of being evicted and landlords often worry about having to carry through with them too.
Over 2020 there was a moratorium on residential tenancy evictions across WA (with some exceptions) alongside a ban on rent increases. These COVID-19 emergency measures ended on 28 March 2021. Since then regular tenancy laws have applied, giving landlords the right to evict once again.
Why evictions are on the rise
A recent news report highlighted that as Perth property prices peaked in January 2022, so did evictions. In fact, homeless charity Shelter’s WA CEO, Michelle Mackenzie, was quoted as saying tenants were struggling to locate affordable rental accommodation after being forced out by landlords capitalising on the current market conditions to sell.
This is a tough time to face eviction: The Perth rental market is currently experiencing double-digit rent rises and vacancy rates at historic lows creating a landlord’s market that is super competitive. There simply are no bargains. It’s genuinely hard work for tenants to secure a new home.
So what are the key things that landlords and tenants need to know about navigating – and avoiding – evictions?
What is eviction and when does it happen?
An eviction happens when the legal owner or landlord legally recovers possession of a rented property from the tenant.
Landlords or property managers can instigate an eviction for several reasons, usually related to a breach of the tenancy or rental agreement. Common breaches include:
- prolonged rental arrears (ie not paying rent)
- unauthorised pets
- unauthorised subletting
- not keeping the property reasonably clean or maintaining the garden as agreed
- changing the locks or making alterations without approval
- causing a nuisance to neighbours
- causing serious damage to the property or people, and
- using the premises for an illegal purpose.
Another common starting point for eviction can include the tenant not moving out at the end of the fixed term tenancy, where they’ve not renewed the lease or agreed to an ongoing arrangement.
Beyond breaches of rental agreements, there are also what is known as “no‑fault” or “no grounds” evictions.
These happen when the tenant hasn’t breached the lease conditions but the landlord wants them to leave the property. In this instance, the landlord doesn’t need to give a reason but they do need to provide sufficient notice: 30 days for a fixed-term agreement or 60 days for a periodic agreement.
Many states and territories have discussed removing “no grounds” evictions but so far Tasmania is the only jurisdiction that doesn’t allow them.
A landlord may also need to evict a tenant if they’re suffering undue hardship, if a lender repossesses the property, if they sell or if the tenant abandons the property.
The eviction process in WA
But the landlord or property manager can’t simply change the locks just because the rent is late. In WA, all evictions must follow the rules set out in the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (WA). Specifically, these require a landlord or property manager to follow a certain process, attempting to resolve the matter informally, before eventually obtaining a court order to evict.
Step One. The landlord or property manager issues a breach notice (either for rental arrears or other reasons). This must give the tenant the opportunity to fix the problem.
Step Two. If the tenant cannot, or does not comply, the landlord or property manager must then give the tenant a Notice of Termination. This must be in writing and follow the form that’s available on the WA Commerce website. The landlord or property manager has to state the grounds on which they’re terminating the tenancy and they must also sign the form.
Step Three. If the tenant fails to move out within 30 days of receiving this Notice of Termination, the Landlord or property manager can apply to court for an order for termination and possession (eviction order). This order can be enforced with a warrant authorising a bailiff to evict the tenant.
If the landlord or property manager fails to follow the correct processes or notice periods the eviction is illegal and fines and penalties will apply. For example, if a landlord forces a tenant out of the property without a court order they could be liable for a $4,000 penalty.
What can tenants do if they believe they’re being unfairly evicted?
Under WA regulations, a tenant suffering financial hardship can apply for a court order to be suspended for up to 30 days.
If the tenant believes they’re being evicted on the basis they complained to a public authority within the past six months or took other steps to enforce their rights, the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 gives them the opportunity to apply to court and argue against the order.
The social impact of evictions
A 2019 report from the Australian Government Productivity Commission argues that “vulnerable renters are those most susceptible to economic and social disruption as a result of negative events, such as rent increases or eviction”.
For these tenants, the costs of eviction can be even high – including the possibility they could end up in marginal or overcrowded housing, or even end up homeless.
This is just one reason due processes need to be followed. It’s always best if a property manager or landlord intervenes and tries to resolve any issues before they escalate.
The key takeaway about evictions
No one, least of all a professional property manager, wants to see an eviction. We do our best to prevent evictions by vetting tenants carefully, performing regular rent reviews and property inspections, staying on top of maintenance and repairs, and ensuring that the lines of communication are always open.
It pays to always remember that in WA, a landlord can’t take possession of their property without a Court Order and they must follow the correct processes before they can apply for one.
Article Source: www.rentwest.com.au