New Year, New NSW Renting Laws Resolutions: A three-point kickstart plan for better renting in 2024!

Jemima Mowbray • 15/01/2024

Greetings, fellow renters of New South Wales! As we kick off the new year, it's time for our beloved NSW renting laws to take a long, hard look in the mirror and make some serious resolutions. Just like the rest of us, they've been making promises for years, and it's high time they start keeping them. A rented home should be safe, healthy, stable and affordable and our policies and laws should be aimed at delivering on this.

We’re going to set a few specific goals, just as starters. There are so many things to do to make renting fair - from public and community housing supply, better regulation of holiday lettings, energy efficiency, reforming applications processes, landing land lease community reforms and ensuring accountability in the system so renters don't have to do the heavy lifting of ensuring the law is being followed. Each of these things and many more are important, but we've got to start somewhere!

Here are three key priorities that should be at the top of their resolution list to ensure a brighter and fairer renting future.

1. Say Goodbye to 'No Grounds' Evictions!

Remember that pesky promise from last year about putting an end to 'no grounds' evictions? Yeah, we do too. Well, it's time for our renting laws to finally deliver on that commitment. No more excuses – let's kickstart the year by getting much-needed amendments to end ‘no grounds’ evictions into Parliament when it resumes in February. 

And that means ending evictions for no reason not only during ongoing periodic tenancies, but also at the end of fixed-term tenancies. A majority of renters in NSW are on fixed term agreements (58%), and the majority of renters who currently receive ‘no grounds’ evictions are on fixed term agreements (71%). If you don’t get rid of eviction for no reason at the end of fixed term agreements, you’re not getting rid of ‘no grounds’ eviction. 

It's time for our renting laws to lead by example – showing us all that resolutions aren't just for show but are meant to be taken seriously. After all, how can we expect ourselves to stick to our own resolutions if even our renting laws can't keep their word?

2. Tackling the affordability problem - regulating rents

The second item on our renting laws' resolution list should be a serious commitment to addressing the fact too many renters are struggling to make rent, and things are only getting harder given record high market rents and the significant increases many sitting tenants are receiving. 

Efforts to ensure we’re seeing new and diverse housing become available are in-hand, though significant government investment and attention is required to support new housing supply that is affordable and appropriate for low and very low income earners (yep, that means delivering more social housing). 

With cost of living pressures hitting renters particularly hard, it's clear nothing should be off the table: everyone needs to lend a hand - including our renting laws. Regulating rents, the report we co-commissioned with Shelter NSW last year, sets out international examples and experiences regulating rents from across North America and Europe. The report sets out a range of models that are worth considering and could be drawn on and adapted for the NSW context. 

3. Don't Forget Boarding Houses – Reform is Long Overdue!

Here's a resolution that often slips through the cracks – renting reforms for residents in Boarding Houses. For quite a few years now, our renting laws have been promising to address the many problems we see for people in shared accommodation, whether that is in old school or New Gen boarding houses, or private share housing and lodging arrangements. The statutory review of the Boarding House Act 2012 began in 2019, and the review report and recommendations were tabled in Parliament in 2020. With the ongoing risks of closures, poor health and safety standards in many formal and informal Boarding Houses, and the crisis pushing more individuals into this marginalised and precarious renting arrangement - 2024 has to be the year we turn that resolution into reality!

There you have it – three key resolutions for our beloved NSW renting laws to get them started and heading in the right direction for 2024. It's time for them to step up, take responsibility, and ensure a better renting experience for all of us. If they need an accountability partner to support and keep them honest: the Tenants’ Union of NSW is here for you NSW renting laws!

So here's to a year of improving NSW rental laws, and safer, more secure, and affordable homes for us all!