This is an ideal time to have your say about how the act works. Redfern Legal Centre’s submission will focus on three main areas:
Protecting the rights of tenants in share housing
People should not be excluded from the tenancy legislation simply because they are living in share housing…
Section 10 of the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) says that if you live with someone who has a Residential Tenancy Agreement with the landlord but you do not have a "written residential tenancy agreement" with that person, then you are not covered by the RTA. In many cases you will not be covered by the Boarding Houses Act 2012 (NSW) either. This means you can’t use the Tribunal to resolve disputes and that you are vulnerable to immediate eviction and difficulties in getting back your bond.
The provisions relating to share housing and domestic violence also need amending…
Section 79 of the RTA states when there is a final Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) that prohibits a person from having access to the residential premises, the tenancy of that person is terminated and the tenancy can be vested in the remaining occupant/s. Section 100 also states that a tenant may end a fixed term tenancy without owing compensation to the landlord if their co-tenant or occupant is prohibited by a final AVO from having access to the premises.
While both of these provisions were welcome improvements on the former RTA, they are rarely used because they do not include interim AVOs; only ‘final’ AVOs. Victims need to ensure their safety at the time of the violence, but final AVOs can take up to a year to be put in place. This section needs to be amended to include interim AVOs with exclusion orders to ensure the safety and secure accommodation of the victim.
See question 28 of the discussion paper: Does the Act adequately protect the interests of sub-tenants/co-tenants and landlords in shared tenancy arrangements?
Strengthening security of tenure
As more and more people need to rent for longer periods of their lives, and moving is one of the biggest life stressors, it is important the government looks at security of tenure to address issues of housing affordability, security and stability.
It is our view that tenants should not have their tenancies ended without a valid reason by the landlord. This could include the tenant breaching the agreement or the landlord needing the property back to sell, renovate or use for family members. However, tenants should not be evicted for no reason or in retaliation for standing up for their rights as tenants (for example for asking for repairs to be done). We believe that the RTA provisions relating to no grounds evictions, retaliatory evictions and rent increases should be reviewed to provide more stability of housing for tenants.
See question 33 of the discussion paper: Should landlords be required to provide a reason for terminating a tenancy? If so, what types of reasons should be considered? Question 15 asks: Do the existing provisions governing excessive rent increases strike the right balance between the interests of landlords and tenants? If not, how could they be improved?
Increased funding to Tenants' Advice Services
Total funding to Tenants' Advice Services has not increased in real terms for over 12 years. However, the number of tenants has grown by 25 per cent over that time. This has left services stretched thin.
Page 29 of the discussion paper outlines funding to Fair Trading and Tenants' Advice Services (such as our Inner Sydney Tenants' Advice Service) that comes from interest earned on tenants' bonds. Increasingly, tenants are missing out on the services they need and deserve. For more information on this funding and why it should be increased see the More Bang for Your Bond website at http://yourbond.org/.
The NSW government has conceded that two COVID-19 fines being challenged in a Supreme Court test case are invalid, opening the door for more than 30,000 other people to have fines worth $30 million cancelled.