Rental Reforms Benefit Low-Income Renters
9 October 2017 at 11:34 am
The Victorian government has unveiled sweeping new rental laws across the state, which social service advocates say will especially benefit low-income renters.
The Andrews Labor government announced this package of tenancy reforms on Sunday, to strengthen renters’ rights and long-term security.
Among the announced reforms is putting an end to rental bidding – a practise which forces potential tenants to outbid each other on rent – and a move to cap rental increases to once a year.
The government will also look to abolish unfair “no reason” evictions, make it easier for tenants to keep pets and will cap bonds at one month’s rent, when it is twice the current median weekly price of $760 a week.
With more than one in four Victorians currently renting due to difficulties breaking into the housing market, consumer affairs minister Marlene Kairouz said renters needed and deserved better protection.
“More people are renting than ever before and for longer – that’s why tenants need a fairer deal,” Kairouz said.
“These changes will crack down on rental bidding, make it easier and faster for renters to get their bond back, and will better hold landlords and agents to account for their actions.”
Premier Daniel Andrews added that the government would establish a Commissioner for Residential Tenancies, to give renters a voice for future reform and protect their rights.
“[We need] someone who can be a watchdog, someone who can safeguard [because often there is] an imbalanced relationship where the landlord and agent have all the power and given how tight the market is, the tenant can’t speak up, [they] have no voice,” Andrews said.
This announcement has been welcomed by the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS), who called for many of these reforms in their submission to the government’s review of the Residential Tenancies Act.
VCOSS CEO Emma King said these reforms would put an end to unfair practises which were hurting renters in Victoria.
“Renters have been getting a raw deal in Victoria, with dodgy landlords getting away with too much, for too long,” King said.
“Victorians are renting for longer than at any time in history, making strong protections for tenants more important than ever. These changes will help level the playing field.
“All renters will benefit, but especially those on low-incomes or facing disadvantage who currently lack the power, time and resources to enforce their rights.”
VCOSS has also called on the government to introduce minimum standards for rental properties in Victoria, which was a central recommendation of their submission.
“All Victorian rental housing should have to eventually be compliant with minimum standards. These standards create a public good by promoting community health, protecting children’s wellbeing and development, reducing basic costs of living, and reducing state government expenditure on health and concessions,” the submission said.
King said minimum rental standards were a “key piece of unfinished businesses”.
“We need to stop dodgy landlords from renting homes in a state of gross disrepair,” she said.
“Just as cars require a ‘roadworthy’ before they can be driven, homes should be required to meet a set of minimum standards and declared ‘homeworthy’ before they can be rented.
“VCOSS looks forward to working with the government to ensure all Victorians have a safe, secure and affordable home.”
The legislation is expected to be introduced in 2018.