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So you’ve just moved into your new rental home. You’re excited and are thinking about putting up picture frames, installing a shelf, maybe painting a room, changing the taps, or creating a vegetable garden to make your home look amazing!
Hold that thought - because first, it’s very important to understand what changes you can and can’t make as a renter?
The law says that renters (you):
The changes are referred to as ‘modifications’.
There are more limitations on modifications if the rental home is ‘heritage protected’. If your home is heritage protected, this means the property has to be kept as close as possible to the original condition at all times. If you think this may apply to you, just ask your landlord before making any modifications.
I’m glad you asked!
There are some modifications you can make without the rental provider's permission.
You can install:
*Note: The items marked with an ‘*’ require the landlord’s permission if your property is heritage protected.
There are also some modifications that you need to ask permission for, but the rental provider can’t refuse without a good reason. These include:
Your landlord can’t refuse you making the above changes without a good reason if it’s necessary for your health, safety, security, reducing energy and water usage costs, or the changes aren’t permanently affecting the home’s structure, surface, or fixtures.
You can’t change the home's structure, surfaces, or fixtures without the landlord’s permission - But what does this mean?
Basically, you can’t just decide to:
Remember to ask the landlord for permission before you decide to change any of the things mentioned above.
If you’re unsure about whether you need to ask your landlord or not, it’s probably better to ask!
Equal opportunity laws provide additional protections if you need disability-related changes made to your home.
If you have a disability, the landlord can’t refuse or discriminate against any disability-related changes to the home provided by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) without good reason. Examples of disability-related changes are ramps, handrails, or bathroom hoists that provide easy accessibility to your home.
If you are not an NDIS participant, you can still request disability-related modifications to your home. They need to be reasonable changes, and your occupational therapist or other prescribed practitioner must agree, in writing, that they are required.
You still need permission from your landlord (or owner's corporation if relevant) to make disability-related changes to your home. If your landlord refuses your request for these kinds of changes, you should speak to a lawyer specialising in disability discrimination. You can contact Legal Aid Victoria for advice about what services might be available.
Your landlord may ask you to pay more bond if you are planning to make some changes to the home.
But in some circumstances, you don’t need to pay an additional bond. This includes:
Yes - You do need to change things back, unless:
The law says if you made any modification to the property during your tenancy, you’re responsible for making sure it’s changed back to the way it was before you moved in.
If you can’t change it back, then you’ll need to pay the landlord a reasonable cost for them to change it back when you move out. The landlord may take a reasonable amount of your bond to cover these costs.
The exception to this requirement is if you have a written agreement with the landlord saying that you don’t have to change things back or pay them for the cost of changing things back.
It’s always good to have everything written down when you’re dealing with your landlord to avoid any misunderstandings or disputes.
The landlord can only refuse your request to make modifications in the following circumstances:
So if your landlord refuses your request, remember that the landlord must provide you with a reason for the refusal. If the reason isn’t one listed above, then you can consider speaking to a lawyer for advice.
If you think that your landlord:
and you’re not able to negotiate with them to reach an agreement, then you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
If you're thinking about applying to VCAT, you should speak to a lawyer for advice about your situation first.