A secure and stable home is essential for wellbeing. Renters should not fear eviction for reporting problems, or for reasons outside our control. Instead we should be able to make our rented property a home. It’s time to change the perception of renters as visitors in their communities who can never put down roots. Introducing security of tenure will reduce transience, strengthen community engagement, improve educational outcomes and give renters the protection we need to raise the quality of our homes and the housing stock in general.
The plan to fix security of tenure:
Everyone should be able to afford a decent place to live. Renters should not face frequent, unpredictable rent rises that compromise our ability to realise our right to a home. Instead, renters should know that our rent has been set fairly and that it isn’t the result of landlords exploiting supply shortages or other factors.
The plan to fix affordability:
A note on supply:
Renters United recognises that significant interventions in the housing market are also required to address broader supply issues. We call for the creation of a National Housing Strategy that includes:
This strategy should be monitored by a Commissioner for Housing.
All rental housing should be warm, healthy and safe. Much of our private rental housing stock is cold, drafty and poorly maintained. Even where higher legal standards do exist, the burden of enforcing these standards falls on individual renters. Poor quality rental housing makes renters sick and costs our health system and economy hundreds of millions of dollars every year. We need higher standards that are properly enforced and we need them now.
The plan to fix quality:
The system to sort out disputes must be fair, timely and well-resourced. The current system relies on renters with endless time and energy to invest in sorting out problems, despite the inherent power imbalance between renter and landlord. When we do stick up for ourselves, we risk damaging our relationship with our landlord, our chance of finding another rental and our own wellbeing. We need better mediation services and tenancy advocacy services, a Tenancy Tribunal that enforces the law, and proper regulation of property managers and landlords.
The plan to fix enforcement:
A note on funding enforcement
The existing enforcement system is funded almost entirely by renters from the interest earned annually on lodged bonds ($20.6 million in the 2016/17 financial year). It is reasonable to expect that renters get from this investment a fair and responsive enforcement system.
In addition, MBIE currently holds several million dollars of abandoned bonds that are ultimately returned to the Crown (currently $9.8 million). It is unacceptable that abandoned bonds, which are renters’ money, are not reinvested in services that would benefit renters. They should be invested in providing renters’ advocacy services to address the inherent power imbalance between tenants and landlords.
The licensing of property managers and registration of landlords should be self- funding, via fees charged as part of their registration.
For the Plan to Fix Renting to become a reality we need the Housing Minister and politicians in general to implement it.
Some of the changes in the Plan can be done straight away without the need for a law change, but most require changes to the Residental Tenancies Act and the Minister has promised a review this year.
We need to build the pressure on politicians to act by making sure they hear about the issues with renting and the solutions we propose from as many people as possible, as well as in the media.