Renters concerned about a payment scheme flung into the spotlight this week by the Barefoot Investor are being reassured of their rights — including new protections that came into effect in March this year.
Those parties, including a company called Rental Rewards, are used by rental providers to collect money from a tenant and pay their agent or landlord while taking out a fee for themselves — which the tenant has to pay.
In return, they offer tenants rewards for using their services, such as frequent flyer points and other credit card-based benefits.
But Tenants Victoria community education lawyer Ben Cording has reassured renters that while such schemes are able to operate if a tenant opts in, agents and rental providers cannot make it mandatory.
“In Victoria, landlords and agents are now required to provide a free rental payment method as well as allowing a renter to pay via electronic funds transfer,” Mr Cording said.
“So while these schemes may continue to exist, no one should ever feel compelled to use them to pay the rent.”
New laws, which came into effect on March 29 this year as part of 130 amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act, state that a “residential rental provider or that person’s agent must ensure that a rent payment method that incurs no additional costs (other than bank fees or account fees payable on the renter’s bank account) is reasonably available to the renter”.
The new rules also prohibit the use of “a term which requires the renter to use the services of a third party service provider nominated by the residential rental provider other than an embedded network”.
Mr Cording called for greater transparency between renters and providers and urged anyone confused about their rights to seek advice from Tenants Victoria or a financial counsellor.
“It shouldn’t cost anything extra to pay the rent, and hopefully now under the new rental laws in Victoria this will be true for many,” he said.
“In a time of complexity, being able to simply pay rent without anything hidden fees or having to do some complicated maths to know if you are going backwards or forward.
“That’s more peace of mind for renters.”
A description on Rental Rewards’ company website says the “convenient and rewarding service processes rent payments on behalf of tenants and forwards the funds to the tenant’s real estate agents”.
Rental Rewards was contacted for comment.
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The post Rental Rewards: How Victorian tenants are protected from fee-grabbing payment schemes appeared first on realestate.com.au.