International students have faced particular hardship in relation to their housing during the COVID-19 crisis. Here is some info which may be helpful.
- I am affected by the travel ban. What can I do?
Many international students may be affected by the travel ban. They may have entered arrangements that are individual or shared residential tenancy agreements in the private rental market, lodgings in private households, or some that are less clear – for example, in Sydney, with Campus Living Villages, Iglu or Urbanest whose forms may look something like a tenancy, or something like a boarding house. Some, especially those on university grounds, are excluded from both the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 and the Boarding Houses Act 2012.
Those blocked from entering the country for some time may be liable for occupancy fee or rent over this period. The relevant legislation is silent here. Both the Schedule 1 ('Occupancy Principles') of the Boarding Houses Act 2012 and Section 43 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 cover abatement of rent, but never anticipated this type of situation. Some people who are not covered by residential laws may need to refer to the Australian Consumer Law or even common law.
We recommend the following courses of action:
- As soon as possible seek to negotiate with the landlord for a waiver of any board or rent covering the period of your absence due to the travel ban. As well as being the decent thing to do, it may also be in their commercial interest to avoid missing out on your contract entirely if the ban prevents significant numbers of people starting their studies this year.
- Ensure you know your rights regarding any items left behind. See our factsheet on goods left behind. You cannot be evicted from your housing unless the landlord follows the proper legal process. See the information above, and our factsheet on evictions.
- If your housing provider has a relationship with your educational institution, contact your student association or university housing officer (where there is one) for assistance, given the Task force chair’s comments reported here.
- If you need to end your tenancy, see COVID-19 Guide: How do I end my tenancy agreement?, but again, be aware the rules may be different for different kinds of landlord or renting agreements.
Contact your local Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service - tenants.org.au/get-advice.
Contact your student association and tell them about your experience.
- I need help finding temporary accommodation
In May 2020 The NSW Government announced additional funding for temporary crisis accommodation for up to 20 weeks for stranded international students. Applications for accommodation through this scheme closed on 12 February 2021, but if you applied before this date, you can check the progress of your application via Services NSW.
You can also call the Service NSW hotline number (13 77 88) or subscribe to the Study NSW mailing list. The hotline number can offer further information about other measures, including medical, mental health, legal and emergency support.
If your university is a participating member of the Australian Homestay Network (AHN) you can use this platform to apply to stay with a local household while you find your feet in Sydney. You can stay for your first 2–4 weeks with an option to extend if you wish.
You can also find local temporary accomodation and other assistance on the Ask Izzy website, which connects people to critical services nearby, including housing.
- Other useful information and support
NSW Government's Study NSW website has a list of information and services. Here you can find:
AECC Global has published valuable information for international students, including which universities are providing financial help.
Australian Chinese Charity Foundation is currently offering some short term emergency assistance to international students who are stranded in Australia away from their hometowns, lost their casual jobs and are unable to sustain basic living expenses as they are not qualified for any Australian Government assistance as a result of the pandemic.
International Student Legal Service (which is part of Redfern Legal Centre) provides free legal information and advice for international students. Their article about resources and supports available for international students facing hardship is worth bookmarking. Also, check out this report (on 4 June 2020).