Tenant News

Facebook – something has gone wrong

Like many other advocacy groups, unions and government agencies, the Tenants' Union got caught in the crossfire between Facebook, NewsCorp and the federal government. Our Facebook page was temporarily wiped, we couldn't post anything, and no one could share anything from our website – not even legal information.

The ban has now been lifted for us – and soon for everyone else too. But the Facebook news fiasco is an important reminder of the real power dynamics at play – neither 'social' media nor traditional media are fair or open. The voices of the less powerful – such as tenants – can too easily be drowned out or switched off. 

Email still cuts through

One communication channel continues to rise above the social media racket: email. The death of email has been predicted for decades, but it remains a central and reliable way to get through to supporters. So we want to sincerely thank you for reading this newsletter! It means a lot to us that you make room for us in a crowded inbox. In return we strive to keep Tenant News useful, accurate and engaging; and send it only once every two months.

If you want tenancy news more often, update your preferences and get our free Housing News Digest emailed to you twice per week. 

And please forward this email and ask your friends to subscribe here.

We also welcome you to follow us on non-Facebook channels, and help us reach more people by sharing / inviting your friends and colleagues...
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Tenants face a growing crisis

Eviction protections ending

Just as the Federal government removes income supplements, we are also approaching the scheduled end of the current restrictions on evictions for rent arrears. From 26 March 2021, renters in NSW will no longer have the protections of the formal rent negotiation process and extended notice periods for COVID-impacted households. This combination does not bode well.  

Are rents going up or down? It depends where you look...

COVID has had varying impacts on rents across NSW. Earlier in the crisis, there was much talk of rents going down in (some) Sydney areas. But where rents did fall, it still wasn't a 'renters market', it was a disaster that people fled. Even with price falls of 15% or more, people's needs weren't being met. More recently, there have been plenty of media reports of skyrocketing rents and locals pushed out of regional markets by people fleeing Sydney: Although some have also argued that this 'exodus' is overstated and moving to the regions is nothing new (The Conversation). 
Also, if you want to track rents in a specific area (for example if you're about to sign a lease or negotiate with your landlord), don't forget about our regularly updated Rent Tracker Postcode Tool.

L plates for LandLords?

In the midst of the COVID crisis, some landlords and real estate agents continue to excel at bad behaviour. Like the Sydney landlord who intimidated and assaulted a tenant and then joked that the attack was a "Quentin Tarantino" moment that he would laugh about for years to come (Sydney Morning Herald). Or the Real Estate Agents who sent out patronising Christmas messages which joked about eviction (Yahoo). 

There is currently a petition in NSW Parliament for the creation of a 'Landlord non-compliance register.' The Tenants’ Union of NSW did not create this petition, but you should consider signing it if the issues resonate with you. We also think Government should act to address the issues in it, because it speaks to some of the most frustrating aspects of renting. But will it achieve its goal of promoting accountability amongst landlords? In a new blog post, we examine the issues around landlord compliance, including:
  • Why don't the existing landlord databases / review websites work?
  • The NSW Fair Trading Complaints Register
  • The Tribunal and enforcement
  • Could a licensing system for landlords work?
Landlords are running a business and there should be some training or quality control like with running many other businesses. What’s appropriate in many other industries is also appropriate for property investment. Landlords need to understand the law and their business set-up and be holding the right insurance and undergo training to manage properties in an effective way. Everyone should be registered to give them visibility and transparency and to weed out the bad participants.
Read more

Returning to homelessness?

Everyone deserves a home, but the NSW housing system, and in particular the private rental market, has failed to ensure everyone has access to safe, secure, affordable housing. We recently wrote a submission to the NSW Audit Office's audit of the NSW Government's responses to homelessness. 

Our submission focuses on the insufficient protections and supports provided for people who rent their homes. It also provides feedback on the department’s response to COVID.
Read the submission
A new report from UNSW-ACOSS looks at the impacts of government policy actions during COVID. During the emergency, governments housed 40,000 people.

As yet there has not been a significant up-tick in homelessness, although numbers of rough sleepers are on the rise again.
The report shows that scale of homelessness in Australia is even larger than often imagined. It also considers the actions taken by governments to shield vulnerable renters, and the refusal by many landlords to reduce rents. 
Read the report
We know that without further action by governments, we will see a rise in homelessness once again. Analysis by Equity Economics late last year predicted a 19 per cent increase in homelessness in NSW a 40 per cent rise in the number of families facing housing stress. And we know that behind these numbers are real people who are doing it incredibly tough...

"My name is Joey King and I am 52 years old. For nearly two years I have mostly been living in my car and on what used to be called Newstart, now the jobseeker payment. When the coronavirus supplement started last April – adding an extra $550 a fortnight to my payment – it made a big difference."
'Uncertainty makes it worse': living in a car and fearing the end of the Covid supplement [Guardian]

We don’t just need more houses,
We need real homes

Haley Stone, Physical Disability Council of NSW (PDCN) writes:

It’s a poor indictment on our housing industry when PDCN members tell me that in the last 20 years they have never had a home that completely suits their access needs. When they tell me that they spend weeks trying to find rentals that tick at least some of the boxes, or that there are parts of their homes they literally cannot use; when they tell me that they miss out on dinner parties with relatives because they can’t get into their homes or can’t use the bathroom at a friend’s house.

In just a few months we could revolutionise our housing system for the benefit of everyone. The question remains: is government responsible enough to do what is needed?
Read more

Housing people with a hoarding disorder – what would be a best practice approach?

Robert Mowbray, Tenants Union Project Officer – Older Renters, writes:

Every so often reports about people with a hoarding condition appear in the media, often managing to both sensationalise the story and trivialise the condition – presenting the condition and its consequences as simply a case of 'wilful obstruction'  and/or a hidden 'horror' story. This does not help to challenge the stigma attached to the condition, or to change people's understanding of the problem.

Shifting people's perception is important because the problem of 'hoarding' is much wider than the fascination with one or two well publicised cases. In Australia it is estimated more than 600,000 people – around 2.6% of the population – may suffer from hoarding disorder.
Read more

The Tenants' Union office has moved!

After being evicted last year, the Tenants' Union has been hard at work moving offices. Our new location is:
Level 5, 191 Thomas St, Haymarket, NSW 2000
And our new postal address is:
PO Box K166, Haymarket, NSW 1240.

But as always, if you need information and advice, the best options are:
Help the Tenants' Union continue our work for tenants...
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Tenants' Union of NSW
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The Tenants' Union of NSW is proud to have published Tenant News for over 40 years – originally as a printed magazine, now as an email newsletter. Check out the archive. ISSN 1030-1054

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.

Copyright © 2021 Tenants' Union of NSW, All rights reserved. Phone: 02 8117 3700
Suite 201, 55 Holt St, Surry Hills, NSW 2010 (until December 2020) 
Level 5, 191 Thomas St, Haymarket, NSW 2000 (from January 2021)

The Tenants’ Union recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the First Peoples of Australia. Our office is on the lands 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.