NEW changes to rental agreements giving renters more freedom and landlords more certainty have been welcomed by some south-west agents and services, but others are concerned the new rules could further constrict the region's tight property market.
The state government is introducing new laws that will see every rental property meet basic standards and renters will no longer need to ask for permission for minor modifications such as installing child safety gates and hanging pictures.
Warrnambool's rental vacancy rate currently sits at zero and community service providers fear it may hurt already vulnerable members of the community.
Brophy Family and Youth Services executive manager Kathy Sanderson said young people were already struggling to enter the rental market.
"From our point of view whilst the new rules are very welcome and we would love for young people to access these new rules, the most important thing is actually getting them into rental accommodation," she said.
"In a very tight rental market young people are the least likely, potentially the last, to access rental properties.
"The preferences are given to families and professionals, rightly so, but what that really means is some of our young people and parents are struggling to find any rental accommodation.
"Young people are quite disadvantaged often because they don't have a rental history in the first place and real estate agents on behalf of landlords have their own preferences for not having young people.
"It's really hard for them to get a first start in a rental property."
Brophy has at least 100 young people on its books on any given month and around 30 young people a month who need crisis accommodation in Warrnambool.
They supply Private Rental Assistance Program packages to help set young people up in a home of their own, but with so little properties up for rent they find they are unable to use the funding.
"We are funded to deliver 50 packages but we could only deliver 35 last year because there's just not the rental properties," Ms Sanderson said.
According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics, 23.5 per cent of all regional Victorian households are renting.
Southern Grampians and Moyne Shire were included third and fourth in the top five local government areas with the greatest median annual rent increase in regional Victoria.
SalvoConnect Wimmera South West manager Lindsay Stow said the new rules could either help or hinder those looking to rent.
"It could potentially lead to landlords deciding not to invest any longer in the rental market but it could also mean those who do get into private rentals have greater protection and security," he said.
"This is always a very difficult time of year because the tourist influx means it's difficult trying to find short-term accommodation for people but also that longer-term tightening of the private rental market has impact the ability to get into accommodation.
"We had a lot of people in emergency accommodation motels as a result of the COVID situation but a lot had to move out by the end of November to make way for visitors.
"We've had a lot of demand."
Ray White Warrnambool property manager Aimee Purcell said the reforms wouldsee a fairer deal for renters.
"I think most of the reforms are pretty fair and reasonable things to expect of a rental property," she said.
"With the shortage of rentals here it's hard to say how they will affect that, there's the potential it could make it harder if some investors decide to sell their property. It could perhaps deter people.
"I think overall it's a good thing that will help renters get more settled in and feel more at home when they can do minor modifications.
"I think there are currently a lot of grey areas and things will become more black and white, making it far easier for renters and landlords."
She said with the vacancy rate sitting at zero it was looking like a tough year ahead for renters.
"We get multiple applications on all the properties we put up for rent unfortunately.
"The last two years it's been the same across the whole year, it doesn't die down and it doesn't seem to be slowing down at all.
"It's an ongoing problem in the area, not being able to secure a rental."
The regulations come into effect on March 29 and are part of the more than 130 rental reforms.
Craig Nixon, a principal lawyer at Tenants Victoria, says the rules should help to avoid disputes which can arise between tenants and landlords when they are uncertain as to where they stand under the law.
"Renters in regional areas have told us they can face a range of challenges, including limited access to services in their town which can enable some landlords and real estate agents to take advantage of the situation," he said.
"More broadly, we've also seen evidence recently that competition for already limited rental accommodation has increased as more people make a move from Melbourne to regional areas.
"This emerging trend has caused rental affordability to decrease in some areas and it's a worry."
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