Legislation passes to given tenants bigger voice
Anti-homelessness advocates, family violence experts, the working classes, the under-employed and welfare recipients, including single parents, are among those celebrating after the Victorian Government passed legislation that recognises the rights of tenants.
Benalla has many who fall into at least one of those categories and most, if not all, will be breathing a sigh of relief.
An under-supply of social housing, unregulated foreign ownership and a host of financial and tax benefits for Australiabased investors has made it impossible for most Australians to own their own homes.
The upshot of that has been a massive increase in the number of renters since the Residential Tenancy Act was introduced in 1997.
Back then renting was still something primarily used on a temporary basis as people saved for a deposit.
However, with the number of Australians locked-out of the housing market in 2018 a legal framework to protect those who cannot buy is something many will say is well overdue.
The Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) says the reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act will protect vulnerable tenants from eviction into homelessness, with the removal of no-reason notices to vacate, stronger protections for victims of family violence and more support for people who fall behind on rent to avoid eviction.
The council’s acting chief executive offi- cer Kate Colvin said losing your home, whether you rented or owned, was traumatic and destabilising, and until this week it had been too easy for landlords to evict.
‘‘Today common sense and fairness has prevailed in our political system, and the scales have been tipped to make renting fairer,’’ Ms Colvin said.
‘‘Last night’s vote shows that people in parliament have been listening to the concerns of Victorians, and the services that help them, and agree that renters deserve more protections, not less.
‘‘Getting into private rental and keeping it is hard enough for many people struggling on low incomes, or who’ve experienced family breakdown, job loss or mental illness.
‘‘The new rental laws will protect, rather than punish, tenants who are already disadvantaged.’’
The Council to Homeless Persons had previously released data showing the number of Victorians evicted from their homes into homelessness had more than doubled in the past five years.
In the 2016-2017 financial year, 43 751 people sought assistance from homeless- ness agencies because they had recently been evicted from rentals.
The review also builds on a change to tenancy legislation last year, which makes it easier for tenants in Victoria to own pets.
Australian tenancy laws had led to the country having one of the highest rates of dog and cat euthanisation in the developed world.
RSPCA chief executive officer Liz Walker told The Ensign last October that the changes had the potential to significantly reduce the number of dogs and cats surrendered to Victorian shelters.
Research also shows that allowing tenants to own pets reduces the amount of people suffering mental health issues.
Benalla Residential Rural principal David MacKinnon said while there were aspects of the legislation that were positive, there were far more that were negative from an agency/investor viewpoint.
‘‘To name a few negative aspects, withdrawing the right to give a tenant a notice to vacate for no specific reason, long-term leases and the biggest hassle for property owners and property managers, to give tenants the right to have pets property,’’ Mr MacKinnon said.
‘‘Pets can and do cause a lot of damage. Leading on from the pet aspect is the limited bonds for a property.
‘‘Bonds are too low now compared to the increase in the cost of repairs to properties. A thousand dollars goes nowhere today.
‘‘The trouble is that Victorian taxpayers foot the repair costs of state housing, which runs into tens of millions each year and the government wants landlords to cop the same.
‘‘This government is doing everything it can to remove any rights for landlords to invest in property and see the value appreciate.’’
Mr MacKinnon represents the interests of investors and does make relevant points about the negative effect this legislation will have on them.
However, it is logical that giving rights to tenants will in-turn take them away from investors, and some will have to sell.
While this is unfortunate for them, it does seem necessary in order for the property investment industry to continue to grow.
Despite making the concept of property investment unappealing to some, it will allow the practice to continue long-term.
Which, when compared to previous decades when the majority of people owned property, is still beneficial to investors.
The main difference now, is that tenant will also have some rights. in the
The new rental laws will protect, rather than punish, tenants who are already disadvantaged.