New rental laws have been passed by the Parliament of South Australia to improve protections for tenants while balancing the rights of landlords.

The latest raft of measures is being phased into operation from 1 March 2024. These started with reforms dated below that don't require significant adjustments to industry or community practices and are detailed on this fact sheet.

Further items will have commencement dates for later in 2024 noted below when they're known. These require transitional arrangements, prescribed regulations and industry preparations.

This Tenant Information Guide provided by agents or landlords at the commencement of a tenancy has been updated to incorporate 1 March 2024 changes.

Changes started 1 March 2024

The law has been clarified to make clear that when a tenancy agreement changes from fixed to periodic the rent can’t be increased within 12 months of the original agreement or the last increase, not even by mutual agreement.

Later in 2024 SACAT may have regard to whether a rent increase was disproportionate when determining whether a rent amount is excessive.

A tenant wanting to sub-let a property will not be able to be unreasonably refused and will not be subject to a further fee for the landlord to give consent.

New penalties have been created for existing offences that require prospective tenants to be notified if the premises is for sale and existing tenants to be given 14 days' notice when a property is to be sold.

All existing penalties under the Residential Tenancies Act 1995 and the Residential Parks Act 2007 are being increased to better represent current day values to act as a deterrent.

A summary of each is detailed in the tables below.

Table of RTA penalties - March 2024

Table of Residential Parks penalties - March 2024

Some of the offences that increased penalties apply to include:

  • charging excessive rent or rent in advance
  • discriminating against tenants with children
  • keeping inadequate records of payments
  • interfering with tenants' privacy that amounts to harassment
  • incorrectly listing a tenants' history on a tenant database ('black list')
  • not lodging a bond
  • entering into an agreement to evade the operation of the Residential Tenancies Act 1995
  • all residential parks offences.

Approved changes being finalised

Future changes, following commencement of the Residential Tenancies (Miscellaneous) Amendment Act 2023, include:

Landlords will be required to provide tenants with a prescribed reason to end a periodic tenancy agreement or to not renew a fixed term agreement.

After consultation these reasons will be prescribed in the regulations.

Landlords will also be required to state their reasons for taking possession of a property during fixed term and periodic tenancy agreements. Currently listed at section 81 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1995 (RTA), these reasons include when a landlord requires possession of the premises to sell, demolish or renovate the premises.

Tenants who believe their tenancy has been ended without proper cause will have the option to apply to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT).

The death of a sole tenant will automatically result in the termination of a tenancy agreement 30 days later. Exceptions include agreements between landlords and an administrator or next of kin, orders by SACAT or earlier termination.

The notice period in which a landlord can end a fixed term rental agreement on a prescribed ground will increase from 28 days to 60 days.

After receiving such notice, a tenant vacating the property before the notice period ends will not be liable to pay rent after they vacate in certain circumstances.

Landlords will be required to provide particular information to prospective tenants, including details of any private electricity network serving multiple premises (known as embedded networks).

Any exchange of falsified information or documents between landlords, tenants and those applying will also be prevented, as well as reasonable steps required by landlords to protect tenant or prospective tenant information, including its safe destruction when required.

Landlords will need to ensure premises comply with minimum housing standards (prescribed under the Housing Improvement Act 2016) ready for occupation.

Tenants will be able to give notice of termination if the premises don’t comply, are destroyed totally, rendered unsafe or for other prescribed circumstances.

In addition, tenants will be able to give notice of termination if they require certain care or temporary crisis accommodation and need to vacate to obtain it. They will also be able to give notice if they have accepted accommodation by the SA Housing Trust or a community housing provider.

A landlord will need to ensure the payment of rent is in a reasonably convenient manner and must allow one means that is electronic and does not involve the collection of rent by a third party for a fee.

The number of inspections per year will be capped to 4 and require between 7 and 28 days notice. It is currently once every 4 weeks with no more than 14 days’ notice.

SACAT will be given the option to deem circumstances necessary to permit additional inspections.

Landlords will not be allowed to unreasonably refuse a tenant’s application to keep a pet in a rental property, provided the tenant agrees to comply with any reasonable conditions imposed by the landlord.

Reasonable conditions will include requiring a pet to be kept outside of the rental property if the pet is not a type ordinarily kept inside and requiring carpets to be professionally cleaned at the end of the tenancy, if a pet is allowed inside.

Renters will still need to seek permission from the landlord to keep a pet and they are liable if the pet causes damage.

Landlords will still have a right to refuse to allow a pet if they have a justifiable reason such as the property lacking suitable space or fencing, if keeping the pet does not comply with Council requirements or if the animal presents a public safety risk.

Renters will be able to apply to SACAT if they don’t think conditions imposed are reasonable or that their request was unreasonably refused.

No unreasonable refusal of minor modifications and safety modifications will be allowed by landlords.

This relates to alterations required for a disability or mobility or access needs that relate to age and are reasonable and necessary without significantly affecting the structure of the premises.

Modifications will need to be removed at the end of the tenancy if the landlord requires.

People who have experienced domestic abuse will no longer need to apply to SACAT to terminate a tenancy. A notice of termination with supporting evidence prescribed by regulation will be required instead.

If a tenant requires temporary crisis accommodation and needs to immediately vacate the premise, they may terminate the tenancy upon short notice.

SACAT will also be allowed to refund a victim’s portion of a rental bond and hold a co-tenant (listed on the lease) responsible for any damages they caused, even when the amount of compensation owed to the landlord is greater than this tenant’s portion of the bond.

Further, changes will enable SACAT to strike out a landlord’s termination notice if the tenant has been subject to domestic abuse and the termination was due to the perpetrator’s domestic abuse.

A tenant who has experienced domestic abuse, and has prescribed evidence, will be allowed to alter any lock or security device without landlord permission. A key will need to be given to the landlord or agent.

People who are protected by an intervention order and normally reside at the premises, but aren’t listed on the tenancy agreement, will be able to apply to SACAT so they can remain at the premises under a new tenancy agreement without the perpetrator.

Bond lodgements will be able to be made directly by tenants using the Residential Bonds Online (RBO) System which all landlords and agents will also be required to use.

Bonds will be returned to co-tenants equally unless otherwise consented to or disputed (SACAT can make orders regarding bond repayments).

Parties will be provided with certain timeframes to take actions relating to the refund of bonds. These timeframes will be reduced through regulations where all parties have access to the online bonds system.

New or replacement fixtures in rental properties will need to meet certain energy efficiency and water saving standards. These will be detailed in regulations to introduce standards gradually.

Currently for separately metered properties the tenant is responsible for water rates and charges that are not based on the level of consumption, unless agreed otherwise. This includes the fixed water supply fee and rates and charges based on the level of water consumption.

Landlords will become responsible for water supply charges that are not based on consumption unless agreed otherwise.

A tenant will not be required to pay water rates and charges if the landlord fails to provide a copy of the invoice within 30 days.

The landlord will be responsible for excessive water use charges caused by a fault in water infrastructure, equipment or other appliances, fittings or fixtures at or connected to the property – if the tenant has notified the landlord as soon as practicable.

The landlord will not be responsible for costs associated with a fault that is the responsibility of the water industry entity.

The Residential Tenancies Act 1995 will clarify that a landlord and tenant may agree the tenant be liable for an amount relating to the costs and charges of system installation.

Landlords who are aware that drug related conduct occurred on the premises will be required to have testing and any necessary remediation done to comply with minimum housing standards.

A landlord will be allowed to evict a tenant that has engaged in or allowed another person to engage in drug-related conduct on the premises, and testing indicates contamination because of that conduct.

Laws relating to rooming houses will soon cover where 2 or more rooms are available, for valuable consideration, for residential occupation, rather than a commercial basis for three or more people.

Rooming houses with accommodation available to 5 or more rooms will need to be registered by proprietors meeting fit and proper person criteria and holding appropriate qualifications and experience. Decisions will be reviewable by SACAT.

Proprietors will only be allowed to terminate rooming house agreements on a prescribed ground and giving residents 60 days’ notice. This increases from 28 days’ notice with no grounds required.

A person must not require or receive a payment from a resident other than rent or a bond (or both) under a residential park agreement or as a condition to entering into, renewing or extending a residential park agreement. A new provision will be included clarifying that payment includes a reference to entry or exit fees, a management fee, a fee for amenities provided by the park (known as a communal contribution fee) or any other prescribed fee regardless of how the payment is described, including if these fees are described as “deferred rent”.

The resident and park owner will still be able to agree to defer the payment of rent under an agreement so that it is paid at a later date than when it would fall due. Late rental payments must be calculated with specific reference to the regular rent fee payable for occupation. For example, a residential park owner may agree to allow a resident to pay $20 of the weekly rent of $200 late such that $180 is paid now and $20 is paid after the due date.

A park owner will need to provide prescribed information to a resident if electricity is supplied via a connection point of an embedded network.

It will be clarified that residential tenancy agreements include arrangements giving exclusive access to a granny flat (as defined).

Initial priorities commenced

The reforms follow the immediate priorities changes in April 2023.

The immediate priorities have been implemented as follows.

Before 1 April 2023 landlords were able to claim residential bonds equivalent to a maximum 6-weeks’ rent when the weekly rent was more than $250, with only a 4-week bond entitled to be claimed for properties falling below that threshold. Increasingly fewer properties fell below this threshold.

Since April the bond threshold was raised to $800 to ensure that for the majority of rental properties in South Australia, only a 4-week bond is required.

This change reduces the amount of upfront costs for tenants by between $500 and $1,600, depending on the amount of rent they are paying.

The new amount applies to any bond paid or payable under an agreement entered into on or after 1 April 2023. Any bond paid before this date remains lodged with CBS until the conclusion of the tenancy agreement.

Rent bidding has been banned in South Australia from 1 September 2023. Landlords or agents must advertise premises at a fixed amount and must not solicit or otherwise invite an offer for higher rent. This means landlords are no longer able to advertise properties with a rent range, put properties up for rent auction, or solicit offers over the advertised rental price. This reform brings South Australia in line with other Australian jurisdictions which have introduced restrictions on rent bidding.

Additionally, where a third party is facilitating tenancy applications, any rating or assessment of a prospective tenant must not be based on an offer of higher rent.

A penalty of up to $20,000 now applies or $1,200 expiation fee.

As a first step towards standardising rental application forms, landlords are being prohibited from requesting prescribed information from potential tenants.

Supporting regulations that define what information can't be requested will come into operation soon following further consultation.  Details on what will be prohibited and from when will be prescribed in the Regulations and updated here.

Breaches will incur a penalty of up to $20,000 or $1,200 expiation fee.

For successful tenant applications, information provided for the purposes of applying to enter into a tenancy agreement will need to be destroyed within 3 years of the tenancy ending.

Prospective tenants’ information may only be kept for 30 days after the tenancy agreement is entered into (by the successful applicant) or up to 6 months with the prospective tenants’ consent. This will apply to landlords, agents or third parties facilitating tenancy applications.

Further a person holding tenant or prospective tenant personal information must take reasonable steps to protect the information from misuse, interference or loss and from unauthorised access, modification or disclosure.

These provisions commenced on 1 September 2023. However, a 12 month transitional period has been applied to comply with the requirements relating to destruction of personal information only.

A penalty of up to $20,000 has been set or $1,200 expiation fee.

Background

The Government of South Australia is acting on feedback from the public and tenancy sector to better meet the needs of today's rental housing market.

These changes to rights and obligations of tenants, landlords, agents and property managers in SA follow the initial public consultation undertaken between 15 November 2022 and 16 December 2022.

The government outlined immediate priorities on 15 February 2023, that largely came into effect on 1 September 2023. Some associated Regulations, involving targeted consultation are being finalised.

The more detailed round of reforms, that were also subject to further targeted consultation, were announced by the government in mid 2023 and passed by the Parliament of South Australia in November 2023. A phased commencement of these initiatives began on 1 March 2024.

Learn more in the Residential Tenancies (Miscellaneous) Amendment Act 2023, the summary of clauses passed and the Review of the Residential Tenancies Act Consultation Report.

YourSAy details of the initial review are available at https://yoursay.sa.gov.au/renting-law-reform.