Friday, May 27, 2016

Can I hang electoral material in my rented property?

It's election time in Australia, and political signs on front lawns and windows are cropping up across the country. We've been contacted by a number of tenants in recent days asking about their rights to have a sign up in their property - some have been approached by landlords asking them to take the advertising down again.

Our legal eagles got interested in the question so here's the skinny on your rights to hang political signage.

The TU does not endorse political parties or candidates. The TU does endorse Pedro.

The High Court

First things first, Australians do have a right to political expression. In 1992 in Nationwide News Pty Ltd v Wills and Australian Capital Television Pty Ltd v Commonwealth (ACTV) 177 CLR 1 the High Court made a decision confirming that right despite there not being a specific constitutional protection as in other countries like the USA. Read more here.

Council Requirements

Councils have rules around signage on properties and on the street. While it might be unlikely a little sign in your front yard or window needs approval, it could be worth checking with your local council about the size and type of signage you propose to hang, particularly if it's on the bigger end.

Strata by-laws

Most strata blocks have by-laws that restrict you from changing the external appearance of the lot without first gaining consent of the owner's corporation. Arguably election material may fall afoul of this by-law - if your strata brings it up with you, check out our factsheet on living in strata and get advice!

Tenancy Rights

When you rent premises, you become entitled to the ‘reasonable peace, comfort and privacy’ in your use of the premises. The landlord/agent must not interfere with, or cause or permit anyone to interfere with, your peace, comfort and privacy.

In relation to electoral signage, we consider it a breach of a tenant's reasonable peace, comfort and privacy for a landlord to demand the removal of political signage so long as the signs are legal, and not causing damage to the property.

However, all these rights can't stop New South Wales landlords from giving you a "No Grounds" termination notice, and it's unlikely that the retaliatory provisions will help. This alone may prevent many tenants from participating fully in the election process. One more reason to support stronger tenancy rights, for democracy!

If you are getting hassled by your landlord about political signage, get advice from your local Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Service.

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