Need to know
- As it stands, there are no limits to rent increases in Queensland
- Reforms in 2021 were a step in the right direction, but didn't go far enough, advocates say
- The Make Renting Fair campaign is calling for further reforms
In October 2021, the Queensland parliament passed a raft of new laws aimed at making renting a less dehumanising experience in the state, where over a third of households are renters.
They included allowing tenants to keep pets unless property owners had a good reason for prohibiting them, and allowing people experiencing domestic violence to end a lease with seven days' notice.
But the reforms didn't touch an issue that's become critical in the state – rental affordability. There are no limits to rent increases in Queensland, though tenants have the option of going through a lengthy tribunal process if they want to challenge a particularly excessive increase.
Few have the time or resources to do so, says Tenants Queensland CEO Penny Carr.
Very large rent increases have been happening for quite a while nowTenants Queensland CEO Penny Carr
"If you don't win the challenge, then you're stuck with the rent. But also, people are just fearful of taking any assertive action, in case it impacts their current or future tenancies."
Since the beginning of the year, rent increases have averaged about 23% across the state, according to a recent analysis by Tenants Queensland. It equates to an average increase of $104 per week.
Queenslanders are not alone in feeling the pinch, of course. In a recent CHOICE national survey, 72% of renters said having enough money to pay the rent was a concern.
Post-COVID market even tougher
Carr says there were hopeful expectations that the rental market would favour renters as the state emerged from the COVID-19 crisis, but the opposite has come to pass.
"We've seen the market get harder and harder for renters over that time. Very large rent increases have been happening for quite a while now."
Tenants Queensland doesn't accept the narrative put forth by the landlords and rental agents that the increases reflect greater costs on their part.
"We're just seeing opportunistic rent increases,' Carr says.
No room for negotiation
Carr describes a rental environment in which negotiation between landlords or rental agents and tenants is virtually non-existent. With a continual supply of renters looking for a place to live, rent increases are a take-it-or-leave proposition, and renters are afraid to complain about poor property conditions or request repairs.
Some landlords and rental agents are showing a distinct lack of compassion.
There's a vested interest in the real estate industry to maximise rent, because in general, they're getting a percentage of that rentTenants Queensland CEO Penny Carr
Tenants Queensland hears cases of tenants receiving notices of high rent increases at the same time they receive an eviction notice. In many cases, it's the rental agents driving the hard bargain, Carr says, and the property owners may not be aware that it's happening.
"There's a vested interest in the real estate industry to maximise rent, because in general, they're getting a percentage of that rent."
New reforms on the way
Earlier this year, the Queensland government announced a second series of proposed rental reforms, which include:
- making it easier for renters to make changes to a property to improve safety, security and accessibility
- tighter restrictions on property owners' rights to enter a rental
- improving transparency and accountability when it comes to bond claims
- making rent payments as well as utility and reletting fees "fair and reasonable".
While the second wave of reforms are welcome, they left some issues off the table, Carr says.
Tenancy Queensland's Make Renting Fair campaign calls for the following:
- limiting rent increases to once per year (already slated to take effect on 1 July) – but no more than the rate of the consumer price index
- automatically returning bonds to the renter unless the lessor has lodged a dispute
- increasing 24-hour entry notices for agents and landlords to 48 hours
- ending 'no reason' (as opposed to 'no grounds') evictions.
Right to privacy in your home
Tenants being surprised when a landlord or agent shows up is not uncommon in Queensland, Carr says.
"For many entries, there's only a 24-hour notice requirement. And the problem is that if that notice is put in your letterbox, time starts from when it's hand delivered. If you don't check your mailbox, there'll be a person there the next day who's got the entry notice."
Carr says tenancy legislation in Queensland has been heavily influenced by a powerful property owners lobby. While the government claims that no-grounds evictions have been abolished, for instance, the number of legitimate grounds for eviction are many, including the end of a fixed-term lease.
"You could drive a bus through the number of reasons for eviction in the legislation," Carr says.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.