Thursday, February 16, 2017

Unsettled - life in Australia's private rental market

Last year Choice, the National Association of Tenant Organisations* and National Shelter conducted a survey of Australian tenants. It asked questions about life in Australia's private rental market, like how easy it is to find a place to live and what it's like applying for a tenancy, what condition is your home in and how easy is it to get the landlord to follow through with repairs, how often do you move and why, and how much does it all cost?

Today the findings from this survey will be published in UNSETTLED - Life in Australia's Private Rental Market.

It makes for interesting reading. From the report:
Our survey indicates that for the increasing number of Australians who rent, housing is frequently poor quality, insecure and unaffordable. Many tenants feel they are not catered to when searching for a new home. Some face discrimination on a range of grounds. Rental properties are not always in an acceptable condition and landlords are not always responsive to requests for repairs and maintenance needs. Tenants can be reluctant to ask for repairs or complain about their housing, because they're concerned about eviction or a rent increase they can't afford.
Key findings include:
  • 83% of renters in Australia have no fixed-term lease or are on a lease less than 12 months long
  • 62% of people say they feel like they can’t ask for changes
  • 50% of renters report experiencing discrimination when applying for a rental property
  • 50% of renters worried about being listed on a residential tenancy database
  • 20% renters experiencing leaking, flooding and issues with mould 
  • 8% of renters are living in a property in need of urgent repairs
Sound familiar? Australia's housing system is doing a poor job for tenants in the private rental market. That accounts for about a third of the population, but tenants experiences rarely feature in discussions about national housing policy. These discussions need to focus on more than just affordability and whether or not we'll ever be able to buy - Australia needs to take a good look at just what we're getting when we pay the rent.

Discussing the report this morning, CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland said:
For Australians who don't own a home, renting should be a secure and affordable option free of fear and discrimination. Unfortunately, the research reveals a significant power imbalance between tenants and landlords, leading to a culture of fear that means many renters stay silent when something goes wrong. 
It’s deeply concerning that common features of everyday life like having children, receiving a government payment or owning a pet can be major barriers for renters trying to find a home.

NATO spokesperson Ned Cutcher said:
All too often, we hear that people are reluctant to complain to agents or landlords because they’re worried about rent increases or eviction. This research shows that this fear is widespread with 50% of renters worried about being listed on a so-called “bad tenant database". 
When people do raise an issue with a property, landlords and agents can really drag their feet before they fix the problem with 21% of renters waiting over a week to get a response about an urgent repair request.

National Shelter's Executive Officer, Adrian Pisarski said:
Tenants are often the last group to be asked about the housing challenges Australia faces. This research has tenants talking about their experiences of the system in a way that’s not often considered in debates about housing. 
Renters face constant insecurity, 83% are without a fixed-term lease or are on a lease less than 12 months long.
As more Australians enter the rental market, we need a national plan to boost supply, especially for low income households, whilst also addressing security, rights and amenity.

*TUNSW is a member of the National Association of Tenant Organisations.


  1. We are inundated with cockroaches and redbacks. Who should pay for a pest spray?

    1. Hi Anon - laws vary from state to state, but generally it's the landlord's responsibility to repair and maintain a property, and the tenant's responsibility to keep it clean. Infestations can fall on either side of that line so it's a good idea to get some advice. Check out if you're in NSW, or search for the Tenants' Union in your state if you're in another part of Australia.
      Ned @ TUNSW


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