Tenant News

What's new for renters in 2022?

The new year has begun, and times are at once strange and eerily familiar.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced a new cabinet of Ministers late last year. On our blog we take a quick look at the new ministers for renting, housing and homes, including a number of revamped ministerial portfolios.

Recently, Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese was asked to explain 'who he is' at the National Press club. He told the story of his first campaign:
"My first campaign, I was 12 years old. We organised a rent strike. We took petitions around to everyone. That was my experience of that. That drove me. That was my first political campaign. And by the way, we won."

Shifts in the balance of power?

Amanda El Gazzar has been a Tenant Advocate at the Northern Rivers Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service for 15 years. In a new piece on our blog, she reflects on her experiences and talks about what has changed for renters. 
"I think the balance of power has shifted due to the lack of appropriate housing. There is a bigger gap now between landlords and tenants. There used to be a more cooperative relationship – more landlords would do repairs promptly, and appreciated that they got the benefit of tenants’ rent. Now the status of renters has been greatly diminished. Being a tenant is often detrimental to your wellbeing – in terms of your ability to work, study, or do whatever it is you are trying to do in life."
Read more

Renter comedian flips the script

For a laugh, check out this stunt (ABC News) which neatly exposes the power imbalance between tenants and landlords. Tom Cashman asked for a reference from the landlord, written by previous tenants. His request was bluntly refused and his application immediately cancelled. It's gone viral, with support from other renters. 
We think it's really important that there is greater transparency and accountability in the renting system. As Leo told the ABC:
"It makes perfect sense that if you're entering into a contract, [potentially] worth tens of thousands of dollars a year, that you would want to know at least something about the people that you're entering into a contract with." 
We explored these issues and point to the possible solution of landlord registration in this blog from last year.
Tenancy law for non-lawyers workshop

Are you a community sector worker keen to understand the laws that shape renting? The Tenants' Union and the Centre for Community Welfare Training (CCWT) are pleased to offer you a one day training that will help you to understand a complex field of tenancy law and will equip you with the tools to help your clients with their tenancy related issues.
Details: 9:30am - 4:30pm, Tuesday 29 March, $200, online. 
More info and registration

Our homes, our health

The pandemic continues to spotlight the connection between our homes and our health, with western and south-western Sydney still bearing the brunt during the Omicron wave (Sydney Morning Herald), accounting for a third of the state’s 650,000 cases since the beginning of December. According to Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant, this reflects the area's high number of critical workers and larger, intergenerational households
Housing instability is increasingly being recognised as a health risk (Guardian) – not only as people accept housing that puts their health at risk, but also as the number of available health care workers goes down and administration costs go up.

The unbearable heat and mould

Rosa Hicks monitoring high temperatures in her rental. Photo: Kate Leaver, ABC.

For many renters, summer weather also means unbearable heat and mould, and little ability to take action. We urgently need legislated minimum standards for health, safety and energy efficiency of dwellings.

Riki's renting story

"The roof above my bedroom was rusted through, so every time there was heavy rain, water would pool in the ceiling-space and drip down into the room. One of the other bedrooms had a black mould problem (likely stemming from the same roof problem) that many successive tenants had addressed by painting over the mouldy areas." Read more (Tenants' Union blog)

Healthy homes summer survey

Sweltering Cities and Better Renting want to hear your story of summer. This is the largest ever survey on how Australian renters are feeling the heat. Questions cover how the heat affects your health, how cool your home is, and what changes you’d like to see in your suburb. The survey takes only 5 mins.
Take the survey now

A solar solution for tenants?

Solar panels installed on community housing in Lismore. Photo: Enova Energy via ABC. 

Solar power is a good solution to unbearably hot homes, since the electricity is generated when it's needed most – when it's hot and sunny. But renters and apartment owners have been unable to access the benefits of rooftop solar. One solution is 'Solar Gardens' or 'Solar Banks', the first of which has now been installed in Lismore, on the roof of North Coast Community Housing. 

Renting crisis continues; homelessness services overwhelmed

It may be a new year, but there is no end in sight for the renting crisis, especially in regional areas. In confirmation of what homelessness services have been saying for some time, a Productivity Commission report has found that half of the people seeking help for homelessness in NSW in the last year, did not get it
"Nearly half of all people who sought help with homelessness last year in New South Wales did not get it, a new report has shown. According to data from the Productivity Commission’s annual report on government services, 48.2% of people in Australia’s most populous state who asked for accommodation assistance from specialist homelessness services in the 2020-2021 financial year went without. That figure represents a substantial increase from five years ago, when 37.2% of people did not receive the help they had requested."
– Almost half of people seeking help for homelessness in NSW in past year did not get it, report finds (Guardian)
Not only is the crisis causing massive hardship for renters, it is also causing worker shortages and impoverishing the majority of young people.

Squatting and housing activism in the 1970s-80s

Given the crisis we're in, what can we learn from earlier housing activists who squatted, protested, and took other forms of direct action? 

In this 20 minute 3CR broadcast, presented by Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG), Shane and Fiona interview activists Joan Doyle and Maureen Donnelly about those earlier times: Stand on your two legs and say 'No More!' – housing activism in the 1970s and 80's.
Listen now

Yabun festival

The Tenants' Union was proud to be part of a joint stall at Yabun Festival together with Comunity Legal Centres NSW, Welfare Rights Centre, and the Seniors Rights Service. Many people visited the stall, and tenancy-related questions came up often.
This year marks the  20th anniversary of Yabun, and the 50th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. We at the Tenants' Union recognise that 26 January is not a day of celebration – it's Invasion Day and Survival Day. This continent always has been and always will be Aboriginal land, over which sovereignty has never been ceded. We stand with all First Nations people in the ongoing struggle for justice.
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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.