|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
Establishment of Boards and Origins of Rent Control
The Fair Rents Boards were established in 1948 under provisions of the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act 1948.1 Their responsibility was to determine the "fair rent" of "prescribed premises" under procedures set out in the Landlord and Tenant Act which was passed and proclaimed earlier in 1948.2
Although provisions for rent control by state or federal authorities were in force during the depression of the 1930's, the first rent control provisions of a similar nature to those enforced by the Fair Rents Boards were embodied in the Fair Rents Act, which took force in 1938. This Act provided for a landlord or tenant to apply to a Court of Petty Sessions for the fair rent of the premises to be determined.3
Legislation enacted in the 1940's, however, controlled the level of rent of all rented premises, not just those in respect of which an application was made to a court.4 Under Commonwealth National Security (Landlord and Tenant Regulations) the level of rent of all rented premises was frozen on 31 December 1940 and the role of a Commonwealth Rent Controller was established to determine appropriate variations to rent.
This procedure was embodied in Victorian Legislation in 19485 and later that year the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act transferred the responsibilities of the Rent Controller to the Fair Rents Boards.6 Under this Act, the Governor-in-Council could constitute a Board in any place in Victoria that was deemed to be appropriate. Each Board consisted of one stipendiary magistrate.
Under the Landlord and Tenant Act and its amendment, two processes were established relating to the administration of prescribed premises; the determination of fair rents and the hearing of applications for orders for the termination of tenancy agreements (recovery of possession). The Fair Rents Boards were responsible for the first of these functions.
Determination of Fair Rent
Under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1948 and the 1948 amendment to it, any dwelling-house except a holiday house or house on a farm property was a prescribed premise.7 If a prescribed premise was rented at any time after the commencement of the Act or at any time since 31 December 1940 (when rent was frozen under Commonwealth Regulations) then the Fair Rents Boards were responsible for determining rent.8
Either a lessor or a lessee could make an application to a Board for the fair rent of the premises to be determined. In making such a determination the Board was to take into account not only the value of the property, level of rates and state of repair, but also the financial position of both the lessor and lessee and any likely hardship which may be caused by varying the level of rent.9
The categories of premises for which the Boards were responsible for determining rent altered over time as successive legislative amendments reduced the number of circumstances in which a rented premise was prescribed. Under an amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act made in 1953, only those premises declared to be prescribed between 31 December and 1 February 1954 (the date the amendment Act commenced) were subject to Landlord and Tenancy Legislation and were required to apply to the Board for rent determination.10 Other amendments limited the application of the Act to leases involving tenants who had leased prescribed premises between 1941 and 1954,11 and in 1971 a further amendment made provision for the lessor of prescribed premises to apply to a Board for the premises to cease to be prescribed if it was believed that this would not cause financial hardship to the tenants.12
Between 1954 and 1982, therefore, the Boards were responsible for rent determination of a gradually decreasing number of prescribed premises. A substantial proportion of these were leased to "protected persons" who had greater rights to the occupation of rented premises and hence remained in prescribed premises for a longer period of time.
Recovery of Possession
In addition to providing for the determination of rent, the Landlord and Tenant Act 1948 also laid down provisions by which a landlord could require a tenant to vacate a prescribed premise. This was known as recovery of possession and was the responsibility of Courts of Petty Sessions, not Fair Rents Boards. Landlords could not terminate tenancy leases without such an order being made by a Court of Petty Sessions. The grounds upon which such an order could be made included that the tenant had failed to pay rent or take reasonable care of the premises, that the landlord required the premises for his or her own occupation, or in some circumstances, that the premises were to be sold.
In the case of protected tenants, who included discharges members of the allied forces, a female dependent or parent of a member of the forces or a recipient of certain types of war service pensions13, many of the grounds upon which an order for the recovery of possession could be made did not apply.14
Transfer of Functions to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal
In 1982 all of the powers and responsibilities of the Boards were transferred to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal, which was established the previous year to adjudicate in a wide range of tenancy disputes.15 All arrangements for the administrative support of the fair rents determination function were transferred to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs which also provided administrative support to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal.16 At the same time, the Tribunal also took on all the powers and responsibilities relating to orders for the recovery of possession of prescribed premises however powers relating to this function were also retained by Magistrates' Courts (formerly Courts of Petty Sessions).17
Location of Records
See also List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, section 3.7.4. As Fair Rents Boards could be constituted at any centre in the State where a Court of Petty Sessions (Magistrates Court) sat, it is possible that some records of the Boards are listed with other local court records. See List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, section 2.