New “renter’s rights” don’t make sense… until you understand where they’re coming from.
Why are we now so concerned about “renter’s rights” all of a sudden?
In the last month both Victoria and NSW introduced new “reforms” to “protect” renter’s “rights”.
Victoria led the way (as it always does):
Premier Daniel Andrews announced 130 reforms will be introduced into parliament this week…
Every rental home will have to meet basic standards including functioning stoves, heating, deadlocks, gas, electricity and smoke alarms.
Rental bidding will be banned and rent increases will be limited to once a year.
Renters will be given the right to make minor modifications without landlord consent, such as nailing a hook on the wall or installing anchors to stop furniture falling on children.
People will also be able to keep pets with landlords only able to refuse the right of a tenant to have a pet by order of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The changes will also allow for quicker returns of bonds, which will be capped at four weeks’ rent…
Ummm…. Were there really many rentals out there that didn’t have electricity or functioning stoves? I thought we already had legislation around that… and smoke alarms?
And that pets one… man, that is a doozy. What if my tenant wants to keep a horse in my two bedroom unit? What about Great Dane, which is really just a horse pretending to be a dog?
Have I got no capacity to say, I really don’t think a pet is appropriate? Where do you draw the line?
Anyway, NSW then followed up with a similar bunch of reforms:
NSW renters are set to see the biggest shake up of rental laws in more than two decades.
The major changes will include limiting rental increases for periodic leases to once a year, set fees for breaking a fixed-term lease and no penalties for domestic violence victims who break a lease.
Other changes include introducing minimum standards like basic access to electricity and gas, that buildings are structurally sound, and have adequate natural or artificial lighting and ventilation…
Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean on Thursday introduced long-awaited amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act, labelling them “sweeping reforms for tenants’ rights”.
“Under these common-sense changes, renting families will be able to make minor alterations, such as installing a picture hook to hang their family photos, and will benefit from a new set of minimum standards to ensure properties are in a liveable condition,” Mr Kean said.
Again with the “minor alterations”… what does that even mean?
I mean, everyone is going to have a pretty different definition of ‘minor’. Am I going to get a call from a tenant:
“Hi Jon, just wanted to let you know I made some minor alterations to the walk-in pantry…”
“Yeah, I just turned it into a hot-tub and sauna. Nothing major.”
“What? That sounds like a pretty major alteration actually.”
“Oh… Well, you’re probably not going to be happy about the new meth lab then either.”
Seriously though, does the legislation cover every definition of what you could possibly do to a place and what could be considered minor or major? Are we going to tie up the courts deciding if the changes to the light fittings were excessive or reasonable?
But that’s all a problem for the legislators.
But I come back to the original question. Where has this come from?
Were there a spate of deaths in rental properties without fire-alarms? Were there thousands of people desperately wanting to put in picture hooks, petitioning the government?
Were there rental properties without electricity?
No. I don’t think so.
Rather, this happened:
The number of rental households has been steadily increasing, and broke 30% nationally at the last census.
At the same time, higher house prices have meant that many wanna-be home-owners are realising that they may be renting for a lot longer than they thought.
In the past, I think people knew that renting didn’t give you the same privileges as owning, but that was ok because you didn’t think you’d be renting for all that long. Just long enough to get your deposit together before you bought.
Now though, as house prices remain out of reach, people realise they’ll be renting for a while, and so find that they do actually care what rights renter’s have, in quite specific detail apparently.
And so put these two together: a growing number of households renting plus a growing interest in renter’s rights – and you’ve got the making of a serious political block.
30% of the population is huge, in political terms.
And so there were votes to be won in playing to the “renter block”.
And that’s exactly what Victoria and NSW have done. This is where this is coming from.
And I’m afraid it probably won’t be the end of it either.