Rental rights

When it comes to residential rental rights and protections, why is it that Australian tenants are far worse off than those in similar countries?
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03.Why we rent

Considering the upward trend in housing prices over the past decade, it’s no surprise that Australians have been increasingly forced to rent. According to a widely cited 2013 International Housing Affordability Survey by the US-based public policy firm Demographia, all of Australia’s major housing markets (cities with a population of more than one million) and three-quarters of all our markets are in the “severely unaffordable” category, which means houses cost more than five times the median income for those areas. 

After Hong Kong, Australia is the least affordable of the seven countries reviewed, followed by New Zealand, the UK, Canada, Ireland and the US. The findings for Australia reflect “vastly overpriced housing”, the survey’s authors wrote, with Sydney, Melbourne and Perth seeing the sharpest spikes since 2000. The authors add a wistful note to round out their analysis, saying the stark message of the report is aimed at “younger generations who have a right to expect they will live as well or better than their parents, but may not, in large part due to the higher cost of housing that is driven by exorbitant increases in house prices relative to incomes”. 

The outlook for the rental world is not much rosier. Between 1995 and 2010, weekly rent has increased by about 45% across the nation, according to the ABS (after adjustments for inflation). But rents in the markets where most Australians live are much higher than in regional Australia (Adelaide’s housing costs, for example, are 53% higher than the rest of SA). 

Did you know? 

The federal government established the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) in 2008, aimed at stimulating the supply of 50,000 new affordable rental dwellings across Australia by June 2012. The goal is for lower- and middle-income consumers to have access to rentals at 20% below market rates.

As of June 2010 there were 12,830 rentals available; the deadline has since been extended to 2016. A couple with one child can apply if they make $96,068 or less; a single person if they make $56,043 or less. Eligible consumers must apply through a tenancy manager in their state or territory. Tenancy managers are listed on the NRAS page.

CHOICE verdict 

Tenant advocate agencies throughout Australia have long pushed for the abolition of no-grounds evictions, a position we endorse as a starting point for better renter protections. “It wouldn’t be a big deal for most landlords, and it would improve things considerably for tenants,” says Martin. “It would also go a long way towards alleviating the insecurity people feel about renting.”


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