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Rental changes on way

Tuesday, 30th October, 2018

By Emily McInerney

Reviews of tenancy laws have overlooked some of the larger issues plaguing renters, according to a union, but a local agent believes tenants are already protected.

The NSW Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Bill 2018 includes limiting rent increases to once a year, setting fees for breaking a fixed-term lease and ensuring no penalties for domestic violence victims who break a lease.

Tenants will also be able to make minor changes to properties and minimum standards have been introduced to ensure access to basic necessities such as electricity, gas, lighting and ventilation.

Leo Patterson Ross, Tenants Union NSW Senior Policy Officer, said the state government’s attempts to create change will see some benefits.

“The response we have received is calling for a more balanced renting system which in the past has pointed in favour of landlords.

“These changes were designed to be beneficial and bring more balance.”

Mr Patterson Ross said the workable repair provisions can’t always be monitored as landlords have the power to evict tenants on no grounds.

“Tenants don’t have a strong enforcement mechanism, as landlords have a trump card in terms of ‘no ground evictions’.

“They can make tenants leave without a reason. 

“That is something the government doesn’t track.

“There is also no point asking for repairs, if the landlord is not going to do it.”

Mr Patterson Ross said there were a number of improvements.

“The provisions for domestic violence victims who break a lease is a good positive step.

“There are lots of issues that could be dealt with better, there is a lot of passion for pets; which is something the government didn’t add.

“There are still a lot of gaps.

“There are a lot of bad practices in the market that could have been addressed.”

He said the whole review was a missed opportunity.

“It’s important for the government to realise these are issues that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

“A fair renting system is important to make it fairer overall.”

First National principal/director Zeta Bennett believed current laws were fair for tenants.

“A tenant can currently dispute or appeal against a rent increase if it is thought to be unreasonable, via NCAT,” Ms Bennett said. 

“A rent increase also needs 60 days notice so, again, a tenant has options - appeal it, accept it or give notice and move out and find somewhere else cheaper.

“I feel the current laws are fair and reasonable already for a tenant.”

Ms Bennett said the ability to make minor changes to a property was a grey area.

“(Tenants) do not own the property, they should not be permitted to make minor changes without landlord permission.

“And how do you define minor? It’s a very grey area and open to dispute.

“Minimum standards have been introduced to ensure access to basic necessities such as electricity, gas, lighting and ventilation.

“Not sure why this is needed, tenants already have the ability to connect electricity, gas, etc. - a landlord is not stopping them from doing so.

“Also, tenants should inspect a property before renting it or entering into agreement - be happy with it and accept the condition as you see it, or don’t rent it.”

She said the domestic violence provision did little to cover landlords.

“I empathise with victims of domestic violence but why should the landlord be compensating for that event, which is outside their control?

“They could be in a situation where their tenant is ending the agreement early at no penalty, plus have physical damage to the property caused by domestic violence - a rental bond doesn’t cover much when there are holes in walls, broken windows or other mistreatment of the property by the perpetrator and ensure no penalties for domestic violence victims who break a lease.” 

Ms Bennett said the no grounds eviction legislation was fair and reasonable and benefitted tenants.

“To be honest, I find the current legislation fair and reasonable and if anything, more advantageous to a tenant than a landlord.”

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