Tenant News

What do the parties say about renting?

The National Association of Tenants' Organisations, of which the Tenants' Union of NSW is a member, wrote to all larger parties inviting them to respond our Federal Election Questionnaire. We are also accepting submissions from other parties and independents.

We invited them to tell us about their policies on strengthening residential tenancy rights and increasing the supply of affordable housing. We asked them about: 
  • Greater investment in social housing
  • Increase in income support and rent assistance
  • Greater stability and security for people who rent their homes
  • Energy efficient, healthy homes for renters 
  • Reduced speculation in the housing market 
  • Protecting renters' personal information 
  • Ensure renters' voices are heard and receive high quality advice
Read the parties' responses

Can we just "buy a house"?

The housing crisis continues, with thousands who have already given up on buying a property now also priced out of the rental market: Renters competing 'Hunger Games-style' as number of rental properties dwindles (ABC News), and vacancies at a 16-year low (Sydney Morning Herald). Rental horror stories abound, from a great-grandmother having to cut back on food (ABC), to exorbitant rent increases, to no-grounds evictions only weeks after moving in, fungi and mould infestations, and scores of denied applications. Read more in The Guardian's series on Australia's rental crisis.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently said that the "best way to support people renting a house is to help them buy a house" in what others have described as economic gaslighting (Pedestrian TV) and a "let them eat cake moment" – Scott Morrison hits back after 'copping flak' over his 'let them eat cake moment' about rental relief and home ownership (Sky News).

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister's advice is not accessible for most renters. Cost of living measures put forward in the recent Federal Budget have also raised concern among housing experts: Renters spend 10 times as much on housing as petrol. Where’s their cost-of-living relief? (The Conversation). National Shelter aptly described the Budget as a missed opportunity to invest in the security of low-income Australians"We are concerned that the only focus in this budget is on measures that provide fuel to an already inflated market."

So does anyone have a plan to fix the renting crisis? 

Professor Hal Pawson discusses what the major parties have promised so far in relation to housing, and whether these policies will actually fix the housing affordability crisis in the Full Story podcast (Guardian). The ABC also offers an investigation into the various parties' housing polices, and finds that renters are "largely ignored" – With high prices and soaring rents, what are political parties promising to do about housing? (ABC News)

The Tenants' Union has long advocated for big picture investment in public and community housing as the key solution to the housing crisis. Many housing experts agree: Thinking big helped Australia solve a housing crisis in the 1940s. We can do it again (Guardian) and Could public housing solve the housing affordability problem? (Video – ABC The Drum).

Similarly, the Everybody's Home campaign is calling on all candidates to commit to fixing the housing crisis, with a key demand that the Australian Government #BuildSocialHousing:"More social housing would provide security and stability to more Australians, while bolstering our common national prosperity. The alternative is an increasingly brutal financial contest for something that should be a basic right of citizenship – decent shelter."

In a hopeful, can-do example, Barkindji woman Narelle Osborne is tackling the problem with a plan to build 500 eco-friendly homes in Broken Hill (ABC). 
Meanwhile, cartoonist First Dog on the Moon offers a tongue-in-cheek 7 step plan to fix the housing affordability crisis...
Read more

Full House!

Renters who live in share houses and boarding houses face additional challenges and complexities. 
In the latest episode of our Renting Matters podcast produced jointly by Legal Aid and the Tenants' Union, Bridget from Legal Aid speaks to guests about living in share houses or boarding houses, the laws that apply and where to get help if you have a problem. Bridget speaks to Amanda, Solicitor in Redfern Legal Centre’s Tenancy and Housing Service. Bridget also speaks to Beverly, Chair of the Older Women’s Network, about whether these living arrangements work for older women.
Renting Matters podcast
Following the fatal fire that claimed three lives at a boarding house in March, the Inner West Council sought to launch a review of boarding house regulation (Guardian), however the NSW government rejected the proposal (City Hub). 

The Tenants' Union is running a whole-day online training on the Boarding Houses Act 2012, on 21 June 2022. If you are a community worker who is interested in attending please register here.
Boarding Houses training
Share house living in the Covid-19 context has also became trickier – Jemima from the Tenants' Union gives some advice: "People want to have a friendly conversation, and it might be easy to get along with someone, but you need to establish the ground rules, how you live and what you are comfortable with." – There is a whole lot more to negotiate’: how Covid-19 has changed housemate hunting (Guardian).

Forced to live in unsafe homes

The recent flood and storm disasters continue to affect many renters. Too many flood victims are still homeless, and some have been kicked out of caravan parks to make way for tourists (Guardian).
Mould in a Sydney rental (Picture: Greens’ NSW MP Jenny Leong – Guardian).
At the same time, huge numbers of renters are now facing an exponential growth in mould"Reports of mould spreading in homes has soared amid the deluge of rain and flooding across Australia’s east coast. The issue hits renters hardest, with some landlords refusing to do anything about it. 'We hear from a lot of reports from tenants who’ve been struggling with mould and report it to their landlords or agents, and they will suggest it’s the tenant’s fault,' said Jemima Mowbray of the Tenants’ Union." – ‘This isn’t safe’: NSW renters fight twin battles against mould and landlords (Guardian). See also: Meanwhile, many of our homes are also completely unprepared for the increasing heatwaves associated with climate change. "Poor building standards and rising energy costs force 30 per cent of Australians to get out of the house during summer, as hot weather takes an increasing toll on physical and mental health. Low-quality homes that do not offer protection from the heat and poorly planned suburbs without trees and shelter from hot weather leave many Australians to suffer heat distress, even during milder summers... One-third of NSW renters said they had asked their landlord to make changes to cool their homes, yet only 11 per cent agreed." – ‘Hard to escape’: Unbearable heat forces Sydney families out of their homes (Sydney Morning Herald). Counsils in Western Sydney councils are also preparing evacuation shelters for hot summers (Sydney Morning Herald), but we need to see improved building standards and protections for renters to address the threat. 

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Legal information in this email is intended as a guide to the law and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice. It applies to people who live in or are affected by, the law as it applies in NSW, Australia.

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The Tenants’ Union recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are the First Nations of Australia. Our office is on the Country of the Gadigal of the Eora Nation. We are committed to respecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, cultures, lands, and histories as we battle for tenants’ rights.