The Victorian Government has committed to a review of the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) as part of its ‘Plan for Fairer, Safer Housing’ to ensure better access for everyone to safe, affordable housing. Back in 1997 the RTA was designed to balance the rights of tenants and landlords as appropriate at the time; however over the last 20 years, the nature of the rental market has changed and a result, CHP believes the Act should to be amended to give renters greater rights and therefore better protection from homelessness.
Traditionally renting was regarded as a transitional phase between leaving the family home and buying a property. Yet since the 1980s, there has been a steady increase in the number of people renting for longer periods, and even for life, mainly due to rising house prices. Renters also tend to be on lower incomes and are younger than people who have mortgages or own their homes outright, making them more vulnerable to housing stress. Furthermore over 100,000 low income renters in Victoria are paying more than one third of their income on rent, putting them at high risk of housing stress and homelessness.
In most cases the relationship between landlords and tenants is not an equal one, particularly given that one has the power to render the other homeless. This is reinforced by various clauses in the RTA, for example a landlord can provide a tenant with a notice to vacate without giving reason. Although the RTA does need to balance the interests of tenants and landlords, CHP believes that the protections should be shifted to give more security and certainty to tenants CHP would like to see the State Government make changes to the RTA including abolishing ‘no reason’ notices to vacate, introducing minimum housing standards, limiting rent increases within a tenancy and making eviction processes fairer so that tenants can have time to secure alternative housing or rectify the problem.
This review of the RTA should increase protection for renters so that the relationship between landlords and tenants is more balanced. Too often renters do not have bargaining power within the market and with the number of renters increasing, this must be addressed to avoid more people being forced into homelessness. You can read CHP’s full submission here.