Important Changes for Landlords

Georgie Wakenshaw - Wednesday, October 07, 2020


In September 2020 the Victorian Government introduced important changes to the laws affecting retail leases through the Retail Leases Amendment Act 2020 (Vic). While the changes are far from revolutionary, it is essential that retail landlords firmly understand their updated obligations. The amendments serve the primary purpose of ensuring retail tenants are free to make more informed decisions when negotiating around retail leases. They also clarify recent uncertainty regarding the liability for repair and maintenance of essential safety measures. The amendments are focussed on building a fairer and easier retail tenancy environment. While the changes benefit all parties by ensuring transparency and certainty, it is landlords who must be most vigilant in ensuring they understand their obligations. There are important changes to disclosure requirements and time limits which, if breached, may lead to significant penalties being imposed.

Summary of Key Changes

Increased disclosure obligations and lead time

The minimum timeframe within which a landlord must provide a copy of the proposed lease and disclosure statement to a prospective tenant has been doubled. A landlord must now provide a prospective tenant with the relevant disclosure statement and lease a minimum of 14 days before the commencement date. In addition, the proposed lease must include the rent, tenant particulars and the term. This allows prospective tenants more time to consider the details of the proposed lease and the disclosure statement, and to seek professional advice where necessary.

Tenant must be notified of changes to proposed leases

Landlords must notify tenants of any changes made to a proposed copy of the lease. This can have serious ramifications for landlords during lease negotiations given that landlords who fail bring alterations to the attention of a prospective tenant are likely to be penalised.

Options to renew

Landlords are now required to provide tenants with more timely information regarding options to renew leases. The amendments ensure that tenants are provided with all relevant price and non-price terms within a reasonable time before they must decide whether to exercise an option to renew.

Previously, landlords were permitted to provide notice to the tenant 6 to 12 months prior to the last date that an option to renew must be exercised. Now, a landlord must provide such notice at least 3 months before the option to renew must be exercised. Specifically, the notice is required to contain:

  • §the last date by which the option to renew may be exercised; and
  • §the rent payable for the first 12-months of the new term; and
  • §the availability of an early rent review process; and
  • §a cooling-off period; and
  • §any changes to the most recent disclosure statement provided to the tenant.

Importantly, if a landlord fails to provide this information, the option period is extended to the date which is 3-months after the notice is given. If the extension is after the expiry of the lease, the lease may be extended until 3-months after the notice is provided.

Introduction of early market rent review process for tenants

The amendments create a new early rent review process for tenants whose retail leases provide for a rent review to be made on the basis of the current market rent. Tenants will be provided a 28-day period to request an early rent review, and at least 14-days to consider once notified of the rent amount.

If the tenant decides not to exercise their option to renew the lease, the amendments provide for an extension in the lease if required to allow for 3-months from that point to allow both tenant and landlord to make alternative arrangements.


Introduction of cooling-off rights

In certain circumstances the amendments establish a 14-day cooling off period for tenants renewing retail premises leases. This may allow tenants who exercise an option to renew their lease to change their mind provided they have not engaged in an early rent review process.

Return of security deposit within 30 days

The amendments introduce a time limit requiring landlords to return security deposits, including bonds and bank guarantees, to the tenant within 30-days after the lease ends. Note that this reform does not impact on a landlord’s right to recover costs where a tenant has not fulfilled all of their obligations.

Landlords may recover costs of ‘essential safety measures’ from tenants by agreement

The amendments also provide clarity regarding the responsibility for costs for essential safety measures. Parties are free to make provision for who should bear which costs in their lease agreement. For example, landlords are able to pass on the cost of repairs and maintenance of essential safety measures where such is provided for in the lease. Further, parties to a lease are free to agree on which party will bear the cost of installation, repairs and maintenance of essential safety measures. This means that an occupier will be barred from recovering expenses from the building owner relating to the installation, repair or maintenance of essential safety measures where that occupier has agreed to bear such expenses under a retail premises lease.

Employment Law Update - 31 Modern Awards extensively varied

Georgie Wakenshaw - Friday, December 06, 2019

The Fair Work Commission has undertaken its 4 yearly extensive review of Modern Awards. As a result 31 Modern Awards will “extensively vary” with such variations to take effect from 4 February 2020.

We have noted the Awards below which have been varied and which we know will effect the terms and conditions of employees of our clients:

  • Aluminium Industry Award 2010
  • Ambulance and Patient Transport Industry Award 2010
  • Animal Care and Veterinary Services Award 2010
  • Banking, Finance and Insurance Award 2010
  • Cemetery Industry Award 2010
  • Electrical Power Industry Award 2010
  • Gardening and Landscaping Services Award 2010
  • Legal Services Award 2010
  • Medical Practitioners Award 2010
  • Nursery Award 2010
  • Premixed Concrete Award 2010
  • Racing Industry Ground Maintenance Award 2010
  • Real Estate Industry Award 2010 3
  • Sporting Organisations Award 2010
  • Surveying Award 2010
  • Water Industry Award 2010
  • For further information in relation to the changes and how they affect your business, please contact Skye Engwerda on (03) 5480 6344.

    Single Touch Payroll Update

    Cosgriff Lawyer - Tuesday, July 09, 2019

    Single Touch Payroll  

    The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has recently introduced Single Touch Payroll (STP), a new way for employers to report an employee’s tax and super information.

    STP allows employers using payroll or accounting software to have the information sent directly from their software or through a third party to the ATO as part of the payroll run.

    Payroll is run as usual (i.e. making payments and providing payslips), however the software will now send a report which includes the information such as salaries and wages, pay as you go (PAYG) withholding and super information and the ATO will then match the STP to the correct employer/employee records.


    Employees will be able to access their year-to-date tax and super information by accessing the ATO online service through myGov. The data is updated every time an employer makes a report. Without STP employees are only able to see their tax and super statement at the end of the financial year.


    At the end of financial year employers will finalise the STP data by declaring to the Commissioner of Taxation that they have completed reporting for the financial year.


    Employers will no longer be tasked with providing employees a payment summary for the information that has been provided to the ATO as the employee will be able to lodge their income tax return based on the STP information accessible online. Payment Summary Annual Reports are also no longer required to be provided to the ATO for the payment reported through the STP.

    Employers not using a software to access the STP will instead be able to utilise no-cost and low-cost STP solutions for up to $10 per month.

    Employers will be affected as follows:


    • Employers with 1-4 employees (micro employers)

    The ATO are looking to provide options for micro employers who currently do not use payroll software to report STP information. This includes no-cost and low-cost STP solutions such as payroll software, mobile phone apps and portals which are anticipated to be released in the near future.

    As part of the transition to STP reporting system, the registered tax or BAS agents for these employers will also able to report the STP information quarterly, however this option will only be available until 30 June 2021.


    • Employers with 5-19 Employees (small employers)


    The Australian Government has extended the requirement for STP to include all employers from 1 July 2019. Small employers have the option to start STP now if their payroll software provides or any time before 30 September 2019, however they can apply for a deferred start date if unable to start reporting by that time.

    • Employers with 20 or Employees

    STP was required from 1 July 2018 for employers with 20 or more employees. Employers in this category should already be using STP or have been granted a deferral by the ATO.

    • Employers with closely paid payees

    A closely held payee is a payee directly related to the entity from which they receive payments, such as family members of a family-owned business, directors or shareholders of a company or trustees or beneficiaries of a trust.

    These payees may not be paid a regular wage or salary and instead may draw on income from the business throughout the year. As STP information is reported each time payroll is run, employers will be unable to report closely held payees this way and alternative options are available.

    For further information in relation to the changes to the Single Touch Payroll and your obligations to operate using the STP system, please contact Skye Engwerda on (03) 5480 6344.

    Retrospective changes to off the plan sunset clauses in Victorian land contracts

    Georgie Wakenshaw - Tuesday, June 25, 2019


    The Victorian Parliament has just passed the Sale of Land Amendment Bill 2019 giving effect to changes to off the plan sunset clauses in contracts for sale of land. These changes will retrospectively apply from 23 August 2018 and will affect all existing residential off the plan contracts no matter the date they were signed.

    Under the new law, developers and other vendors will no longer be able to rescind off the plan contracts for residential land without:

    1. Providing the purchaser with at least 28 days written notice of the proposed rescission detailing the reason why the vendor wishes to rescind the contract and the reason for any delay in procuring the registration of the plan of subdivision or occupancy permit (as the case may be); and

    2. The purchaser consents to the rescission of the contract.

    If the purchaser does not agree to the rescission of the contract, the vendor may apply to the Supreme Court for an order rescinding the contract provided they can demonstrate to the Court that it is just an equitable to do so. In determining whether it is just and equitable to make an order rescinding the contract, the Court will consider factors such as the terms of the contract, whether the vendor has acted in bad faith, the likely date of registration of the plan or issue of the occupancy permit, whether the subject lot has increased in value and the effect of the rescission on the purchaser.

    Developers and vendors will not be able to contract out of these requirements, that is, a special condition cannot be including in the contract purporting to exclude the new requirements. If a developer is found to breach the new requirements, they will be in breach of the Contract with the usual remedies available to the purchaser for a breach of contract, such as the right to seek damages.

    The new law mirrors that introduced by the NSW Government in late 2015 in an effort to target developers who sought to exercise their rights to rescind contracts pursuant to the sunset clause and subsequently re-sell the property for a higher price.


    2019 National Minimum Wage and Penalty Rates Update

    Cosgriff Lawyer - Thursday, June 20, 2019

    The Fair Work Commission has conducted its Annual Wage Review and concluded to increase the national minimum wage and all modern award minimum wages by 3%.

    The increase to the minimum wages will apply for the first full pay period from 1 July 2019. From that time, the national minimum wage will increase to $740.80 per week (from $719.20) or $19.49 per hour (from $18.93).

    This increase will apply to employees who are paid in accordance with the minimum wage or are covered by a modern award. The increase may also apply to employees covered by a collective agreement under which the pay rates are linked to the Annual Wage Review.

    Further changes are also being implemented to some Sunday penalty rates in certain hospitality and retail industry awards following on from the Commission’s decision in 2017. These changes are as follows:

    penalty rates for full and part-time employees under the Hospitality Award will decrease to 150% (casual employees will remain at 175%);

    penalty rates for full and part-time employees working between 7am and 9pm under the Pharmacy Award will decrease to 165% and casual employees will decrease to 190%;

    penalty rates for Level 1 full and part-time employees under the Fast Food Award will decrease to 125% and Level 1 casual employees will decrease to 150%.

    There are widespread changes to the penalty rates under the Retail Award – please contact our office for specific advice as to those changes.

    For further information in relation to the changes to the national minimum wage or penalty rates and how they affect your business, please contact Skye Engwerda on (03) 5480 6344.

    Selling a property with a pool or spa?

    Georgie Wakenshaw - Monday, May 06, 2019


    Swimming pool or spas in NSW have been required to be registered on the NSW Swimming Pool Register from October 2013. The Conveyancing (Sale of Land) Regulation 2017 requires a Contract of Sale to include this Certificate of Registration and one of the following:

    • An Occupancy Certificate issued within the last 3 years; or
    • A current Certificate of Compliance; or
    • A current Certificate of Non-Compliance. If you receive a Certificate of Non-Compliance, a purchaser will have 90 days from the settlement date to rectify any defects and bring the barrier into a compliant state.

    If one of the above Certificates is not attached to the Contract when the purchaser signs the Contract, the purchaser will be entitled to rescind the Contract at any time up until settlement. This requirement is built into law and cannot be contracted out of (that is, a clause included in the Contract removing the requirement to include the Certificate or making the Contract conditional upon the vendor providing the Certificate within a certain period of time after Contracts are exchanged).

    Certificates of Compliance are valid for three years or until the pool is no longer compliant (whichever is earlier) and a Certificate of Non-Compliance is valid for 12 month. If you considering selling your house which has a swimming pool or spa, you should apply for the Certificate of Compliance as early as possible to avoid any delay in the sale process. This is especially important if your property will be auctioned.

    Some properties, such as those within a strata complex, are exempt from complying with these regulations.


    There is presently no requirement in Victoria for a Certificate of Compliance to be attached to a Contract of Sale.

    However, the Victorian Government has passed legislation for a new swimming pool register and compliance regime effective from 1 December 2019. Homeowners will be required to ensure that the safety barriers around a pool or spa are compliant and inspections are likely to be carried out every three years. You are currently able to voluntarily register your pool or spa on the Victorian Building Authority website prior to registration becoming mandatory later this year.

    It will only be a matter of time before Section 32 of the Sale of Land Act 1962 is amended to require reflect similar requirements to those of NSW.

    Our conveyancing and property law team will be able to guide you through the compliance process to ensure that the required disclosure is made in your Contract of Sale.

    Review of the Family Law Act

    Georgie Wakenshaw - Monday, June 18, 2018

    Review of the Family Law System

    The Federal government has commissioned the ALRC to undertake the first comprehensive review of the family law system since the commencement of the Family Law Act in 1975.

    Purpose of the Review

    The review will focus on supporting families to resolve their family law disputes quickly and safely by considering:

    • “appropriate early and cost-effective resolution of all family law disputes;
    • the protection of the best interests of children and their safety;
    • the best ways to inform decision makers about the best interests of children and their views;
    • family violence and child abuse, including protection for vulnerable witnesses;
    • laws in relation to parenting and property division after separation.”

    Why is the review important?

    Notably the review represents the first comprehensive review into the family law system since the commencement of the Act in 1976. This means that even though there have been widespread changes in Australia, both socially and to the needs of families, the family law system has not kept up with those changes.

    The current system has been criticised as being:

    • costly;
    • harmful to the dignity and privacy of separating families;
    • inefficient;
    • ineffective in dealing with safety issues and interacting with other services and Courts; and
    • Adversarial in nature and providing an appropriate dispute resolution and adjudication process.


    Australian Government, Australian Law Reform Commission, website accessed 31/05/2018

    Rae Kaspiew, “Separated parents and the family law system: What does the evidence say?”, 3 August 2016, Australian Government, Australian Institute of Family Studies, accessed 31/05/2018


    Georgie Wakenshaw - Thursday, June 14, 2018


    The Fair Work Commission has announced a 3.5% increase to minimum wages. The increase applies from 1 July 2018.

    The outcome of the Fair Work Commission’s Expert Panel’s review is that from 1 July 2018:

    • the National Minimum Wage and Modern Award minimum wages will increase by 3.5%; and
    • the National Minimum Wage will increase to $719.20 per week (up from $694.90) or $18.93 per hour (up from $18.29).

    Employers who pay their employees at or close to the minimum wage rates pursuant to a Modern Award, the National Minimum Wage or other industrial instrument, will be required to increase their employees’ pay in the first pay period on or after 1 July 2018.

    For further information in relation to the changes, please contact Skye Engwerda (03) 5480 6344.


    Do you have a Will in place?

    Cosgriff Lawyer - Tuesday, November 21, 2017

    While many people know the importance of having a Will in place, there are an alarming number of people who not have one in place either because they see it as something that they will do when they get “older” or because they don’t see the importance of writing one.

    If you pass away without a valid Will, you will have died intestate. In these cases, your assets are distributed according to the Rules of Intestacy, in a set order laid down by the law. This order probably won’t reflect your wishes.

    In Victoria the Rules of Intestacy provide as follows:

    • If you leave a spouse or domestic partner, but no children, then your spouse or domestic partner will receive your whole Estate;
    • If you leave a spouse or domestic partner and children, your spouse will receive the first $100,000 and one third of the residue, while your children will receive the remaining two thirds equally;
    • If there is no spouse or domestic partner and no children, then your parents will receive your whole Estate. If your parents have predeceased you, then your Estate will pass to your siblings. If you have no siblings, the Administrator of your Will will continue to trace your family tree and collateral relatives;

    New South Wales Rules of Intestacy are a little different and provide as follows:

    • If you leave a spouse or domestic partner, but no children, then your spouse or domestic partner will receive your whole Estate;
    • If you leave a spouse or domestic partner and children, and the children are your spouse's children, your spouse is entitled to the whole estate.
    • If you leave a spouse or domestic and children, but the children are not the spouse's children, the spouse is entitled to, your personal effects, $350,000.00 and half of the residue, while your children will receive the remaining one half equally.
    • If you leave no spouse but leave children, your children will share the whole estate equally.

    To make a new Will or to update an existing Will please contact Zoe Broadbent at Cosgriff Lawyers (03) 5480 6344.



    Is it a Loan or a Gift?

    Georgie Wakenshaw - Wednesday, August 23, 2017

    Loan from Parents in Family Law Property settlements- it can be a challenge!

    Determining if a payment from a friend or a family member is a gift or a loan is a common challenge in family law property settlements. Pursuant to section 79 of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) if the payment is classed as a loan, it will be regarded as a liability and reduce the value of the property pool available for distribution. A gift however is considered as an indirect contribution and as such, will not form part of the property pool.

    Is it a loan or a gift?

     Factors that the Court will take into account when determining whether a payment is a loan or a gift are:

    • Whether there is any formal loan documentation between the parties and when this was created?
    • What evidence is there of the loan being repaid? eg. Bank statements.
    • Whether any interest or principal payments have been made during the relationship on the loan?
    • Whether a caveat/charge or other security has been provided for the loan?
    • How long the loan has been outstanding?
    • What is the likelihood that the debt will be enforced?.

    Has a parent said ‘it is a gift because we want to help you out’? Bear in mind that the Court will also take into consideration informal factors such as conversations about the nature of the loan.

    Case examples

    In Pelly v Nolan [2011] FMCA a father loaned his son $250,000 to help his son buy a property. After the property was sold, the father loaned a further $70,000 which the son used to purchase a new property. The son did not pay back any of the loan nor had been charged any interest, although the father had prepared a loan agreement. The Court found that even though no money or interest had been repaid, on the balance of probabilities, it was likely that the son would have repaid the loan. Therefore the sum of $320,000 was considered a liability of the marriage and was paid out of the matrimonial pool. The Court first considered the formality of the loan and how it was documented. E.g. there was a formal agreement allowing for interest and a repayment date, and the parties had begun to make some repayments. The Court is likely to view the loan as a liability given that the parties had the intention to repay the loan.

    In Maddock & Anor (No.2) [2011] FMCAfam 1340 a father gave the parties $240,000 towards the cost of buying and building a house. The Court found that there had been no formality, no term of repayment, no demand for repayment until the family law settlement and no capacity to pay. On the evidence given to the Court it was decided that if the parties had not separated, the father would never have asked for repayment of the funds. Therefore, the sum of $240,000 was considered a gift and was not required to be repaid. There was no formal agreement or demand for the repayment of the loan prior to separation. The Court held that had the parties not separated, the parent would never have called on the loan to be repaid and as such considered the money to be a gift.

    If you have separated or are thinking of separating from your spouse/partner, contact Ashlyn McCurdy at Cosgriff Lawyers to find out more or to arrange an appointment on (03) 5480 6344 or