Universities and Australia’s biggest student housing provider are using a loophole in legislation to avoid tough laws designed to protect renters.
Clay Lucas and Nicole Precel reporting in The Age.
Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act gives renters protections including regulated rent increases, eviction safeguards and the ability to ask for rent reductions due to financial hardship.
But lawyers and student advocates say exemptions in the act – designed to recognise the historical relationship of on-campus colleges with universities – are being applied to corporate housing providers leasing apartments to thousands of international and domestic students.
NSW has a similar tenancy act to Victoria. Sean Stimson, a senior solicitor at Redfern Legal Centre, said its international student service regularly saw accommodation contracts linking enrolment to housing, which authorised the education provider to withhold academic results or graduation and block access to classes until outstanding rent was paid.
Stimson highlighted the case of a Pakistani international student, who, due to health issues, deferred his studies and returned to Pakistan. When the student tried to end his lease with another purpose-built student accommodation provider, it told him his proposal would be considered. But when the student returned to Australia three months later, he was told he needed to pay thousands of dollars in rent arrears.
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