Wednesday, December 15, 2010

... and now, here's a word from our competition winner

Regular readers will know of our good friend Leo, who won the coveted prize of a copy of "Pacific Heights" on DVD for his near-enough speculation in the Brown Couch guessing game a few months back... Leo managed to come within a whisker of the correct answer to the question: how many private tenancies were established under the Residential Tenancies Act 1987? (I've always assumed it was just a good guess, and not some kind of calculated wizardry that we should all be momentarily in awe of...)

Anyway, it's clear that Leo is capable of more than the occasional wild stab in the dark. Much more. Because no sooner than the postie had delivered this grand prize to Leo's door, he's popped it straight onto the plasma with pencil and notepad in hand, to look upon it with a critical eye. There wasn't even time to make popcorn.

... and so the Brown Couch welcomes Leo to the podium, to discuss "Pacific Heights". Talk us through it, Leo. What's it all about?

Leo PR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you... What a great audience...
You know, if all the bad tenants in the US were to sharehouse together and after a couple of months were asked who amongst them was the worst tenant of all, that bad tenant would not be Carter Hayes. This isn’t because the other tenants wouldn’t have voted for him, it’s because everyone else would have left or been beaten into submission.

Michael Keaton’s portrayal is still being used by real estate agents around the world to demonstrate the pitfalls involved when choosing tenants. But it’s really more a tale of the dangerous lengths and risks people will take to own their own home.

In an apt parable of Australia’s attitudes towards renting, this malevolent force is actually an aspirational home owner and investor himself. Taking advantage of Frisco’s lack of a low-cost adjudication system he moves in to a house with the protection of supposedly tenant-friendly laws and a slow, expensive eviction system. In the words of the landlord’s attorney “the net effect of these laws is to protect any pointy-headed cretin who moves into your property and slowly drives you bankrupt and insane.” Landlords in NSW should be so lucky!

The aim of his game is to drive the landlords into bankruptcy and snap up the property at massively reduced prices.

Post-beetlejuice, mid-batman Keaton, pre-Antonio Griffiths and what-else-has-he-been-in-again Modine all do fine jobs in their roles. Keaton handles the shift between sociable and respectable yuppie and creepy psycho very well, clearly his role in Batman had honed that skill.

Modine's character is no angel himself, proving to be his own worst enemy by managing to break almost every rule in whatever book you happen to be using. With some serious anger management issues he was the perfect target for our antagonist’s plots and destroys any sympathy you might have had for him by petulantly exploding with rage any time he doesn’t get what he wants.

Melanie Griffiths provides the true victim between her tenant and live-in partner, pitching herself nicely as a young, naive but ultimately decent person. The final revenge sequence is one of the only properly well-directed sequences in the film.

The movie itself is a mishmash. I don’t know if I’ve been innured by hundreds of hours of violent video games, Marilyn Manson and the Saw movies but as a thriller the film fell flat. Perhaps you need to be a landlord to truly appreciate the scariness of that staple of yuppie horror stores... a baaaad tenant.

All told, a dated, ocassionally sloppy and amateurishly symbolic but nevertheless enjoyable argument against debt. Of course, these intrepid landlords still want to make good on their investments. They list the property at 20% more than they paid only 6 months before, and suck another young couple into a mortgage they can ill afford.

In Hollywood, as in all good fiction, the good guys always seem to win in the end.

Friday, December 3, 2010

New renting laws to begin Janury 31st, 2011

The Governor of NSW has proclaimed that the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 will commence on January 31st 2011. Along with this proclamation comes the release of the final Residential Tenancies Regulation 2010. A copy of the regulation and the Governor's proclamation can be found here - click the link for the week beginning November 29 2010, and you should find them in the list...

This marks the completion of a reform process that has been many years in the making. The review of the current Residential Tenancies Act 1987 began with a discussion paper in 2005, followed by a long list of recommendations for reform in 2007. A consultation draft bill was released late in 2009. The final bill was passed through Parliament and assented in June 2010, whereupon it became an Act of Parliament.

When the new law commences next year, it will be the first big change to NSW renting laws in more than 20 years. We say "big change", because the complete rewriting of a law is nothing short of wholesale. But the expected changes are really very modest - as they're mostly aimed at tidying up and clarifying some tricky parts of the current law. That said, there are a couple of really exciting changes that we can all look forward to. For more information, see this earlier discussion from the Brown Couch.

There's a lot to do before the new laws commence, and things may become a little quiet on the Brown Couch while we get on with it all. Keep an eye on this blog and on for updates as we make the necessary preparations.