Fairer Leases For Victorian Small Business Owners

The Andrews Labor Government is making it easier for small business owners to understand their leases and get money back in their pocket quicker under amendments to the Retail Leases Act tabled in Parliament today.

The changes will enable small businesses to move quicker as they develop and expand, remove confusion around legal obligations and lease terms and conditions, and enhance building safety.

Key elements of the Retail Leases Amendment Bill 2019 include:

  • Requiring retail tenants to be informed of the proposed rent before they extend their lease.
  • Allowing more time for tenants to consider the terms and conditions of a proposed lease – 14 days compared with seven days under current legislation.
  • Setting a maximum 30-day timeframe for the return of security deposits from landlords – currently the Act states deposits should be returned “as soon as practicable”, which is open to exploitation.

The Bill also confirms the current practice of landlords passing on the costs of repairs, maintenance and installation of essential safety measures (ESM) to tenants when agreed to in a lease.

Most leases are already negotiated with ESM costs included – the proposed changes provide certainty and eliminate confusion in dealings between landlords and lease-holders.

The amendments are part of the Government’s commitment to cutting red tape for owners and making Victoria the best state to run a small business.

The reforms build on the Better Approvals Project which is cutting time, money and stress around local council permit processes. It has already been taken up by 32 local councils which have cut the average number of days to process business permits from 199 to 54.

There were more than 604,000 small businesses in Victoria at the last official count in June 2018, with a year-on-year growth rate of 4.8 per cent the highest of all states.

The Labor Government has cut payroll tax rate for businesses in regional Victoria where the rate is now the lowest in Australia. The payroll tax threshold across the board will move from $650,000 to $700,000 by 2022/2023, benefiting an estimated 1,000 businesses.

The Minister for Small Business Adem Somyurek today made a Ministerial Determination to exclude the lease of farms for genuine farming activity from the provisions of the Retail Leases Act.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Small Business Adem Somyurek

“Fairer retail leases and less red tape are an essential part of making Victoria the best state in Australia to grow a small business.”

“These reforms have been developed in consultation with small business owners, retailers and landlords, reflecting our commitment to listening and engaging with stakeholders at all levels.”