VOX POPS: What reforms in the various residential tenancies legislation are necessary to better protect both tenants and landlords?

Devon LaSalle, Communications Officer @ Tenants Victoria
“Introducing minimum property standards into residential tenancy legislation is one of the best – and most humane – things each state and territory could do.”

“Poor and hazardous property conditions are rife within the rental market, and these issues pose a very real danger to the one-third of Australians who currently rent their homes. A recent study found that 6.5 percent of deaths in Australia could be attributed to the cold, whereas Sweden – one of the world’s coldest countries and a place that has legislated minimum property standards – recorded almost half that figure. When you consider that one in nine Australians suffers from asthma, issues like excessive mould growth and being unable to heat your home are more than mere annoyances; they are potentially life-threatening problems.”

“Maintaining rental properties in a good, liveable condition benefits everyone – tenants are able to live healthier lives in safety and comfort, and their landlords will enjoy having happy tenants who will stay with them longer and look after their investment. Everyone deserves a safe and secure home whether they pay a lender or a landlord to live there. Queensland is already on board. There is no reason why the other states and territories can’t follow suit.”

Michael Lennon, Managing Director @ Housing Choices Australia

“The traditional Aussie dream of owning your own home has created a culture where renting is seen as the ‘poor cousin’. But the private rental market offers both choice and mobility. It must be taken more seriously and governed more comprehensively.”

“With more than a third of Australians now in the private rental market, there is an urgent need to guarantee better protection around tenure and affordability for tenants. Currently, the pendulum hangs too far on the side of the landlord, over the tenant. We need to get that balance right.”

“Community housing enterprises in Australia offer a form of rental tenure security above and beyond any Rental Tenancy Agreement in the private rental market. From our own experience, we know that good property and tenancy management can deliver both secure housing to tenants and stable tenancies to owners.”

“Why not cherry-pick the best of the tried and tested options that work in the UK. and many European countries, where private rental markets are powerhouses in their own right? Combine that knowledge with the experience of the Australian community housing sector and it shouldn’t be hard to deliver a series of reforms that provide a suite of tenancy options. In this way, we can give tenants more flexibility and choice, including greater security around tenancy length, while ensuring the rights of both tenant and landlord are protected.”

“Ultimately, we all know stable accommodation lies at the core of healthy neighbourhoods and individual wellbeing. Security of tenure and greater choice will create a stronger rental marketplace for investors and a healthier society at the same time.”

 Benjamin Rees, Property Coordinator @ Samaritans Housing

“The long overdue review to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) in NSW has delivered very little in the way of reforms to assist supported accommodation providers under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).”

“We currently have all levels of government working to provide Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA). For instance, local planning initiatives that require new developments are to have 10 percent accessible accommodation; state planning initiatives are to streamline the SDA process for group homes among other affordable housing initiatives; and, federally, we have SDA Funding through the NDIS. I would have expected some changes to the RTA, specifically related to tenancies for the purposes of supported disability accommodation.”

“While the vast majority of these tenancies will be managed by community housing providers, they need a legislative framework that works in a group home setting. Supported tenancies are complex and the current RTA cannot reflect the nature of a shared tenancy in a supported group home. Currently, the RTA from a landlord’s perspective is a one trick pony – “terminate the tenancy” – which is the opposite of what any community housing provider would do, and not a good outcome for landlord and tenant alike. Within the disability sector, tenancy terminations can cause unintended harm and stress on vulnerable tenants.”

“Some amendments I’d like to see made to the RTA are alternatives to tenancy termination (e.g. voluntary income management, as opposed to tenancy termination for non-payment of rent), and special provisions for shared and/or supported tenancies managed by community housing providers to protect vulnerable tenants.”

“Currently, the space is complex and better legislation is a needed to attract greater interest from investors in SDA.