Housing justice for marginal renters

The problem:

  • Some vulnerable renters are excluded from residential tenancy legislation, and may have no legislated rights and remedies in relation to their housing.

The solution:

  • Extend the occupancy principles in the Boarding Houses Act 2012 so they cover all renters otherwise excluded from residential tenancies legislation.

Some people who rent their housing are not covered by our tenancy legislation. The Residential Tenancies Act 2010expressly excludes boarders and lodgers, and numerous other categories of renters.

The Boarding Houses Act 2012 now covers some renters – residents of registrable boarding houses – who previously were not covered. But still, many people in boarding and lodging arrangements are not covered by any legislation about their housing.

These marginal renters include residents of small boarding houses, lodgements in private houses, share houses, residential colleges, refuges and crisis accommodation. Some of them are the most vulnerable people in our community. Their exclusion from tenancy legislation makes them more vulnerable.

Marginal renters’ housing arrangements are governed primarily by the common law of lodging. The terms of the lodging contract are those that the parties have bargained for; in practice, the landlord sets the terms.

This means the rent may be increased, or the contract terminated and the lodger evicted, with little or no notice. It also means that you may have few or no rights in relation to repairs, security, access and privacy, and no realistic avenues for resolving disputes. 

Some marginal renters may have some legal rights and remedies under the Australian Consumer Law, but this depends on the circumstances. In particular, if you are a lodger in a private house or share house, you probably are not covered by consumer law, and so have no legislated rights or remedies in relation to your housing.

The Tenants’ Union believes all renters who are otherwise excluded from tenancy legislation should be covered by the occupancy principles set out in the Boarding Houses Act, with straightforward access to the NSW Civil and Administrative to deal with disputes.    

Further reading

TUNSW Report: 5 Years of the Residential Tenancies Act 2015