Tenant advocates to National Cabinet: no time for half-measures on renters’ rights
As housing ministers meet today, national housing and tenancy organisations have called upon the National Cabinet to seize the opportunity to boost renters’ rights in response to rising housing affordability challenges across the country.
The organisations — National Association of Tenant Organisations, National Shelter, Everybody’s Home, and Better Renting — say that National Cabinet should begin with four key reforms to help improve consistency across jurisdictions and ensure secure homes for the growing number of people in Australia who are renting long-term.
They are calling for measures to improve the stability and affordability of renting across Australia:
- An end to no cause terminations, including at the end of a fixed term, as recently implemented in the ACT;
- Reforms to stabilise rent prices including by setting clear limits for rent prices and increases;
- Minimum energy efficiency standards for rental homes; and
- Enhance frameworks to support compliance and introduce accountability for non-compliance with existing laws, including around privacy
Leo Patterson Ross, spokesperson for the National Association of Tenant Organisations, says that ending ‘no cause terminations’ is critical to supporting any reform efforts.
“Governments expect renters to do the heavy lifting in ensuring tenancy laws are followed. But renters aren’t given the tools to do this - in most jurisdictions, landlords can kick out renters when they have done nothing wrong. Governments need to create an environment where renters have safe, stable and affordable homes.
“While a rented home is available for rent and the renter has done the right thing under the contract, they should be able to expect to stay and expect that the landlord also follows the contract. We hear every day from people who are worried about their ability to keep themselves and their family safe and housed as their current and future homes are at risk if they speak up. ”
Emma Greenhalgh, CEO National Shelter, says that substantial rent increases and insecurity of tenure is resulting in people and families being made homeless.
“We are seeing households being placed in the unenviable position of having to decide whether to try and absorb a substantial rent increase to maintain a roof over their heads and forgo food, medicines, and other essentials. Many households are not able to afford these rent increases and end up sleeping in cars or tents.”
“Poor tenancy laws also result in insecure housing and multiple moves for families. These forced moves are harmful and they are expensive. They are destabilising and can compromise access to schools, employment and services. We are particularly concerned about the long term consequences of this instability on children.”
Maiy Azize, spokesperson for Everybody’s Home, said that people need action from governments to tackle the growing rental crisis.
“Rents have been soaring for years. It’s pushing more and more people into rental stress and even homelessness, with record numbers of Australians stuck in rentals they can’t afford. Some people are so wiped out from paying their landlords that they have nothing left for bills, food, and emergencies.
“We need action to protect people from unfair rent increases and make sure their homes are decent and liveable. People should not be pushed to the brink to keep up with rent increases and keep their homes liveable.”
Joel Dignam, Executive Director of tenant advocacy organisation Better Renting, says that national energy efficiency standards can help tackle the cost of living crisis while ensuring rental homes are safe to live in.
“So many substandard rentals are draughty boxes offering little more than four mouldy walls and a leaky ceiling. So when people can’t afford to heat their homes, they end up paying rent for a place that is bitterly cold and barely liveable. This drives up power costs and makes people struggling through winter with a cough that never seems to go away. Setting minimum standards will make it cheaper and easier for renters to keep their homes at a comfortable and healthy temperature, while reducing the cost of living.”
“Responsible Ministers should also make the effort to hear from renters in their communities and consult with them in the creation of this package. People renting have important expertise on what’s going wrong with the current system, and renters’ voices must be heard in helping to shape a solution.”
For media enquiries contact:
Leo Patterson Ross, Spokesperson, National Association of Tenant Organisations.
0431 751 599
Emma Greenhalgh, CEO, National Shelter
0402 927 243
Available from 7am.
Maiy Azize, Spokesperson, Everybody’s Home
0434 200 794
Joel Dignam, Executive Director, Better Renting
0402 182 389
Available from 6am.