We talk a lot on the Brown Couch about the situation of tenants under New South Wales renting laws.
Then there are the renters who aren't covered by residential tenancies legislation at all.
These are the marginal renters: the boarding house residents, the lodgers in private residences, the residents of licensed residential centres for people with disability, the clients of refuges, crisis accommodation and supported accommodation, students in residential colleges, occupants of shared households, some caravan park residents.... There's about 25 000 marginal renters in New South Wales, as best we can count. And they include some of the most disadvantaged persons in our community.
Marginal renters have been forgotten by the law and neglected in government policy. They deserve better. So this election campaign, the Tenants' Union is calling on all political parties to commit to reforming marginal rental. And we're proposing the following four point plan of reform:
A four-point plan for reforming marginal renting
1. Law reform to create ‘occupancy agreements’
The problem: Legal relations between marginal renters and landlords are governed by unregulated common law contracts, with no fair mechanism for resolving disputes.
The solution: Law reform on the model of the Australian Capital Territory’s successful ‘occupancy agreements’ legislation, so all marginal renters are subject to non-prescriptive ‘occupancy principles’, with dispute resolution through the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal.
2. Measures for more viable boarding houses
The problem: Traditional boarding houses are closing down, and too many of those currently operating are unsafe, poorly maintained and badly run. Existing subsidies and programs have not delivered satisfactory outcomes for investors or the community generally.
The solution: A ‘Boarding Houses Register’ to improve standards and liaison with the boarding house sector, a $15-million boost over five years to the Boarding House Financial Assistance Program, and business mentoring and other practical support for boarding house operators.
3. Services to promote social inclusion
The problem: Residents in boarding houses are often socially isolated, as are some landlords.
The solution: A ‘Boarding Houses Social Inclusion Program’ to get boarding house residents and landlords better connected with support services, including mental health and employment services, in their local communities.
4. Appropriate housing and support for people with disability
The problem: The accommodation and support provided to people with disability by licensed residential centres is generally unsatisfactory, and at its worst is abusive and exploitative.
The solution: Stronger action on standards and compliance, and movement from inadequate for-profit operators to social housing with funded support.
You can download the TU's four point plan in full here. Already 24 community organisations have signed on in support of reforming marginal rental. You can do your bit by writing to candidates in your electorate to ask them for their commitment to reforms for the State's most disadvantaged renters.