Eviction, hardship, and the housing crisis: Tenants' Union report

A special report from the Tenants’ Union highlights the hardship and stress people face when being evicted, calling for an end to ‘no grounds’ evictions and strengthened protections for renters.

A special report from the Tenants’ Union highlights the hardship and stress people face when being evicted, calling for an end to ‘no grounds’ evictions and strengthened protections for renters.

The release of the report, Eviction, hardship, and the housing crisis Building a more crisis-resilient renting system, comes just as renters in NSW enter a period of uncertainty, with the last remaining protections under the moratorium on evictions coming to an end on 12 February.

The report estimates that up to 30% of renters who move house have to relocate because of an eviction, often through no fault of their own, and reveals an average cost of around $4,000 each time a renting household is forced to move.

The report found that risks of eviction, including homelessness, are exacerbated for people already in crisis. It also highlights the broader costs of eviction and long-term impacts on renters’ lives – as well as for governments and communities.

Recommendations

The report states that stronger protections are needed to ensure renters are not unnecessarily forced to move, and calls for increased supports for renting households experiencing hardship to sustain their tenancies and stay safely housed through times of crisis.

It identifies a number of ways in which regulatory arrangements and settings could be improved to ensure people are not forced to move unnecessarily.

  1. Replace ‘no grounds’ eviction provisions in current NSW tenancy law with a range of specified reasonable grounds for ending a tenancy.
  2. Where a renting household is evicted for reasons other than a breach, compensation for moving costs should be payable by the landlord.
  3. Fees for applications for eviction at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal should be set higher than other matters to reflect the seriousness of and costs involved in eviction proceedings, and to disincentive unnecessary eviction proceedings.

The report also proposes a framework of supports for renting households experiencing hardship to sustain their tenancies and stay safely housed through crisis, including:

  • Provisions for temporary rent variations in circumstances of hardship
  • A minimum rent variations   
  • A rent relief hardship fund to offset the costs of a mandated rent variation
  • Appropriate restrictions on eviction for renters experiencing hardship
  •  Eligibility criteria that recognises the range of circumstance in which hardship variation should appropriately be applied
  • Easy access to hardship provisions, with prescribed timeframes for determining and applying a hardship rent variation
  • Resourced advocacy and other relevant supports, including e.g. independent advice for renters, and access to a financial counsellor as part of the process.

Redfern Legal Centre has long advocated with the Tenants' Union for an end to evictions without reason. In the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, it is time to end unjust 'no grounds' evictions. People going through difficult times should not be at risk of having their hardship compounded by an unnecessary eviction. This report proposes a more ‘crisis-resilient’ system in which the interests of tenants and landlords are more fairly balanced, and the true costs of eviction are acknowledged.