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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.

New and improved Renters' Guide to COVID-19

Since March, the Tenants' Union has published and updated a multiple resources for renters during the COVID-19 crisis. We are now pleased to make available a new, expanded, all-in-one Renters' Guide to COVID-19.

The Guide covers common questions about renting in NSW during the crisis. We are working hard to keep the information up to date, and will be regularly adding to and amending the guide as things change.

Please share it far and wide!

Contents

Renters' Guide to COVID-19

Tools for rent negotiations


In the current context, many renters are trying to negotiate about the rent with the landlord. This is an unfamiliar process for almost everyone, and it can be tricky working out what you can afford to agree to or what offer to make.

That's why our new Guide has a dedicated section on rent negotiations, which looks at issues such as what to expect from negotiations, the meaning of 'good faith' and 'fair and reasonable', and also includes several new tools...
 

Rent Reduction Calculator

Working out what you can afford and what is right for you in terms of rent reduction – waiver or deferral – can be difficult. Our Rent Reduction Calculator lets you put in a range of information about your rent and income situation and then allows you to check what different scenarios of reduction including waiver of rent or deferral look like for you.
 

Rent Tracker

Our Rent Tracker Postcode Tool is now up to date to the end of April – it shows rents for new tenancies in particular areas. This is useful information for negotiations, and also for those looking at a new lease.
 

Rent relief template letter

When you are ready to put your proposal for rent reduction to the landlord or agent, we have a rent relief template letter you can use.
 

Rent Reduction Template Agreement

If the landlord / agent agrees to reduce your rent, make sure to get the agreement in writing. You can use our rent reduction template agreement.
 

Parliament passes extra emergency measures


In mid May, NSW Parliament considered a number of measures that might provide further support for NSW renters during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tenants' Union put out a briefing on the extra protections and supports needed for NSW renters. While not all of the measures we were hoping to see got through, there were a couple of small wins, including:
  • 2 week cap on break fee for tenants forced to leave
  • NSW Parliament recommends further rent relief
We consider these new measures in more detail here: NSW Parliament passes extra emergency measures: what this means for renters
 
Read more

Rent, affordability, and debt

Kings Cross, Sydney, 2019. Photo by Glenn Lockitch.
We know that renters doing it tough in this crisis. The latest Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot reports:
Renters are on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic. Many are losing their incomes, and some are scared of being forced out of their homes.

Our Rental Affordability Snapshot shows that welfare increases have given many Australians badly needed relief – but that the private rental market is still failing people on the lowest incomes.
Read more: Rent affordability in COVID-19: Anglicare report
Initial bond data released for March shows that COVID-19 has already had a huge impact, with a large spike in tenants moving out of their homes. We suspect there will be an even greater spike in April, despite the NSW implementation of the eviction moratorium.

Read more: Spike in NSW tenants moving out of rentals amid coronavirus pandemic, data shows (Domain)
 
There is also a growing worry in the form of a potential rent debt crisis, if rent costs aren't handled well.

Rent reductions need to include waivers – not just deferrals, and the negotiated outcome needs to take into account the whole COVID-19-impacted period and address rent arrears accrued prior to negotiations being settled. Governments need to ensure that people do not come out of this period with a debt following them around.

Read more: Coronavirus rental hardship 'kicked down the road' to spring of 'carnage' (ABC News)
 
Can you share your COVID-19 story / photo?

With so many renters struggling at this time – and even facing eviction despite the moratorium – now more than ever it's important to share your stories to precipitate change. If you are facing eviction and you are willing to speak publicly, please fill in our 'media champions' form. We may not be able to tell everyone's story, but if possible we will be in touch. We regularly receive requests from journalists to be put in contact with tenants who are willing to speak publicly. We also regularly meet with politicians who ask us to provide case studies.

Professional photojournalist Glenn Lockitch (who is also a tenant) has also begun a project of documenting renters who are suffering due to the COVID-19 crisis. If you're willing to be photographed, please get in touch with us or contact Glen directly at glennlockitchphotography.net

Invest in social housing for COVID-19 recovery

New research shows role of social housing in economic recovery

Supporting Economic Recovery is a new report commissioned by the Tenants' Union together with the NSW Council of Social Services, Shelter NSW, the Community Housing Industry Association NSW, and Homelessness NSW.

The report shows that up to 16,000 people may fall into homelessness as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Given the ongoing housing affordability crisis in NSW, a record number of unemployed households may soon have few, if any, affordable housing options.
Investment in social and affordable housing is vital to economic recovery. There is a critical need to:
  • Build additional social and affordable housing stock across NSW
  • Repair old social housing stock
  • Rapidly acquire properties in the private market to find permanent homes for rough sleepers and others in temporary/crisis accommodation
This sort of investment in social housing will achieve economic goals of:
  • Responding to rising unemployment.
  • Supporting businesses, particularly small to medium enterprises in regional areas.
  • Slowing the decline in income and wealth.
  • Easing inequality and disadvantage.
Read more:
Welfare agencies lobby for construction stimulus plan (Sydney Morning Herald)
 
Read the report

Change Management

Social Housing Management Transfers Program Best Practice Report

After a delay of several months due to COVID-19, we are now pleased to be able to make this significant report available.

Between October 2018 and September 2019 the management of more than 14,000 public housing tenancies across nine geographical regions of NSW was transferred from the management of DCJ Housing (formerly FACS Housing) to ten Community Housing Providers under contracts which last for twenty years.
The mass transfer of tenancies and services from the public authority to non-profit landlords is of critical interest to the Tenants' Union, and since affected tenants had no voice or choice in the design or implementation of this program, we undertook the vital task of observing and reviewing its implementation through the lens of tenants’ experience.

This report uses primary research to focus on the experiences of tenants during the transfer period and in the months following transfer, with the aim of identifying practices and policies that have impacted positively or negatively on transferred tenants.

COVID-19 has both highlighted the benefits and need for stable, genuinely affordable housing and highlighted issues related to the tenants experience management and performance of different parts of the social housing sector. We hope to return to this part of the discussion in the future, but note that these observations were all prior to COVID-19.
 
Read the report
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For tenancy advice, please contact your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service. See tenants.org.au 'Get Advice'

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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 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.