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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.

A disaster is looming in the crisis


At the Tenants' Union we are extremely worried about the coming months – even if NSW is able to avoid a second wave of COVID-19. Many renters are facing ruin in the form of a mountain of deferred debt, as the eviction moratorium disappears and financial supports are withdrawn or reduced.

We also know that the weakness of the current rent negotiation framework means many renters are struggling to afford the rent right now, and are already being pushed out of their homes everyday. Many renters were never eligible for the eviction moratorium, and have been evicted for a range of other reasons, or no reason at all – through the 'no grounds' loophole.

Last week, a Better Renting survey of 1,000 tenants found that while two-thirds had lost income due to COVID-19, only 9% of them asked for and received a satisfactory rent reduction. 20% had their request for rental relief denied, while 7.5% had their rent deferred. Read more (Guardian).

We are closely monitoring the assistance available to NSW renters during the crisis (see this article on our blog and our submission to the United Nations report on COVID-19 and the right to housing). We are concerned that the assistance available is insufficient to prevent disaster.

And we're not the only ones talking about this danger – many are warning of a looming 'cliff', 'debt trap', or 'timebomb' facing renters:

Renting life under COVID-19

Parity (Australia's national homelessness publication) has just published a special edition on COVID-19 and renting. The Tenants' Union has several articles in the magazine.

Jemima Mowbray explores the problems renters are facing during COVID‑19, and shows the crisis has highlighted and exacerbated existing inequalities and problems – most acutely, housing insecurity and lack of affordable rental housing.
Jemima tells the story of a COVID impacted tenant whose house has flooded for years. He asked for rent relief but instead got a no grounds eviction notice.

We need to talk about the landlord

Also in Parity, Leo Patterson Ross raises a discussion about the role of landlords in Australia. He begins with the recent case of a landlord and 'friend' who allegedly detained and assaulted a tenant – see also this short 7NEWS video. Leo argues that it is no longer sufficient to leave the provision of housing in the hands of people who are simply unsuited to the important work they are responsible for.
Similarly, Joel Pringle reports that we are already hearing about many landlords who ignore requests or refuse to negotiate with COVID impacted tenants; offer rent deferrals rather than the reductions required; decide for themselves that tenants are not eligible; use harassment to pursue rental arrears; evict tenants for rental arrears – in spite of the moratorium; or use 'no grounds' evictions.
The issue of landlord's insurance has also emerged in connection with the COVID-19 crisis. There have been reports that some agents and landlords have pointed to landlords' insurance requirements as a reason why they can't reduce rents for COVID-19 impacted tenants. Robert Mowbray investigates.

Cheaper rents? A tenants' market?


We're always skeptical of claims that small shifts in prices mean tenants have got it easy and rents are cheap. It's true that some areas in Sydney are now seeing significant drops in rents, but it really depends on location and type of dwelling. Affordable properties are still few and far between for people on lower incomes.

It's great that some tenants have been able to negotiate a rent reduction, and you should definitely try to do so if you can, but that's often not possible for people who are already doing it tough. We think the real test is when the people at the lower end of the market can experience the same kind of choice and freedom as those at the upper end. When every renter is being courted by the landlords and agents and seeing great repairs and maintenance, then we might call it a 'tenants market'. Read more:

Tenants need to be heard and supported

The immediate hard lockdown of over 3,000 public housing tenants in Melbourne in early July was concerning for a number of reasons. These renters suffered an enforced lockdown before anyone else in Melbourne, and without any warning. The heavy-handed approach caused a great deal of confusion and fear. We now also know that it did not prevent a second wave of the virus. To be effective, let alone fair, a crisis response must involve working with, listening to, and supporting communities. People already suffering must not be further punished and disempowered.
Read more in our blog: Tenants need to be listened to: community support – not heavy-handed policing
 

Support renters to keep a roof over our heads in these times of crisis

Together with over 70 other housing and community organisations and researchers, we called on National Cabinet to support renters stay in their homes and out of debt during COVID-19. We called on them to consider how the evictions moratoriums implemented across the country measured up to a set of basic minimum standards for protection. Read the statement.

Eviction protests


Over the past few months, there have been several (COVID safe) actions organised by renters in response to the crisis.
This Prime7NEWS video reports on a rent protest outside NSW Parliament, while Wendy Bacon has reported in City Hub on eviction resistance actions in the Inner West and in university housing.

Advocates report from the front lines

Pamela Hunter is Community Services Manager at VERTO, who run the South West NSW Tenants Advice & Advocacy Service. She reports on what they're currently seeing in their region: Tenancy services needed now more than ever
"Tenancy, and renting in general, became very popular subjects at the beginning of the pandemic but they seem to have slipped from the headlines of late. At VERTO, my team works with those most vulnerable in the community, the people most at risk of being evicted, even under the protections put in place for this period..."
After 10 and a half years, Maralyn Schofield recently left her role as Coordinator of the Northern Rivers Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Service. We got her reflections on what has changed, what has stayed the same, and what needs to change for NSW tenants.
Reflections on 10 years of Tenant Advocacy
Esther Smith has returned to the Greater Sydney Aboriginal Tenants Service and we took the opportunity to get her updated thoughts on what it's like being a Tenant Advocate – what inspires her and keeps her going, as well as the challenges faced by tenants and Advocates.

COVID-19 factsheet in 7 languages

We have published a summary factsheet in 7 community languages on renters rights under COVID-19 in NSW. The factsheet has information on paying rent, evictions, the rules on access to rented properties for getting repairs done, inspections for sale of premises, and other issues that renters are facing. Please help us share this with speakers of these languages...

Renters' Guide to COVID-19 updated


Our general Renters Guide to COVID-19 in English is constantly being updated and improved. Last week we updated the rent assistance information to reflect the end of that COVID-19 assistance package.
 
Renters Guide to COVID-19

Getting your bond back, standing up for your rights


With so many tenants being forced to move during the crisis, now is a good time for a few reminders about getting your bond back.
The Illawarra South Coast Tenants Advice Service has recently updated their Bond Kit. You can find it and lots more resources related to securing your bond at tenants.org.au/resources/bond.
Q: How clean does the property have to be when you move out?
A: 'Reasonably' clean. But this doesn't stop agents or landlords from telling renters they need to get professionals in to clean, or even from charging the tenant once professionals have been through. Read more in How clean does your rental need to be when you move out? (ABC Life)

Also remember that while going to the Tribunal can seem daunting, many tenants who make a legitimate claim do win, as these two stories show Canberra landlord who sued former tenant for broken coffee plunger, missed rent ordered to pay thousands (ABC News); A Canberra landlord who took his tenant to a tribunal has ended up nearly $4,000 out of pocket (ABC Canberra)

Goods left behind


As of last month, the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 no longer regulates goods left behind. The Uncollected Goods Act 1995 sets out the process that a landlord/agent must follow when dealing with goods left behind, including how they may dispose of them and what notice must be given. We have updated our Goods Left Behind factsheet accordingly.

Land lease communities website

The Noticeboard is our online hub for land lease community residents, and has just had a major redesign to improve usability, design, SEO and site longevity. It is now integrated it with tenants.org.au
 

Employment opportunities

The Tenants' Union Policy and Campaigns Officer takes a lead coordinating and supporting collaboration in our campaign work to make a positive and practical difference in the lives of people who rent their homes. See full job ad
The Coordinator Northern Rivers Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service, based in Lismore, is responsible for overall service delivery. See full job ad

Tenants' Union staff changes

Daen Phillips is our new Aboriginal Paralegal. Daen is a proud Gamilaroi and Yorta Yorta man. He is studying Law and Commerce at the University of NSW and hopes to learn skills to act and respond within the community to make a real change. Daen has volunteered for a range of community organisations, and also has experience in the corporate world.
Jemima Mowbray has taken on the role of Policy and Advocacy Coordinator. Jemima was previously Acting Senior Policy Officer, Policy Officer and Residential Parks Support Worker. Jemima has been instrumental in driving the Tenants' Union policy and campaigns work over recent years. She is passionate about housing justice and is a long-term renter.
 
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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.