New Rental Protections for NSW Tenants

What makes a house a home?

Moving to a new house always requires some adjustment. To ease the transition, many people hang their favourite pictures on the walls. Surrounding yourself with wedding photos and snaps from family holidays help transform the new space into a home by making it feel comfortable and familiar.

However, for renters, this simple task has not been possible – until now.

This week, the NSW Government introduced new legislation granting renters additional rights, among them the ability to undertake minor renovations including hanging a picture from a hook.

While hammering a hook into a wall may seem trivial, it is part of a recognition that more Australians than ever are spending substantial periods of their lives living in rented accommodation.

The most recent census data backs this up. In the 2006 census, 28.1% of Australians lived in rented accommodation. By the 2016 census, this figure had grown to 30.9%. The trend is clear – the decline in housing affordability means more Australians than ever are renting. This has led to a recognition that renters rights need strengthening, which is why the NSW Government has moved to introduce this week’s legislation.

Apart from having the right to undertake minor alterations of their homes, renters will benefit from provisions that require landlords to ensure their properties meet specified minimum standards including:

  • Access to utilities including electricity and gas
  • Ensuring the building is structurally sound
  • Adequate natural or artificial lighting and ventilation
  • Adequate outlets for lighting, heating and appliances

Failure to meet these basic requirements can lead to tenants seeking redress by obtaining rectification orders from the NSW Fair Trading Tribunal. Furthermore, the tribunal will place greater emphasis on time frames and reasonable diligence when it comes to ordering repairs to a property. Landlords who are negligent by deliberately dragging their heels when it comes to fixing up their properties could face further penalties.

The new legislation also ensures that those in a fixed-term lease can only face rental increases once a year, and there are no penalties for breaking a lease early due to an instance of domestic violence.

While these changes are a step in the right direction, there are those who feel the changes don’t go far enough. Some tenant advocates believe that landlords should not have the ability to evict renters for no reason outside of a fixed-term lease. They fear that if renters feel vulnerable to eviction, they will not insist that a property is maintained to the expected standards.

On the other hand, some advocates for landlords expressed concerns that new minimum standards could lead to rents being increased, which would hurt lower-income families most.

If, upon implementation, this new legislation leads to higher rents, you should begin the search for your new rental home now. With new rental properties coming onto the market each week, now is the time for you to sign a new lease and lock in a competitive price. By making your move now, you’ll enjoy lower rent, while also benefiting from greater protections once the new legislation comes into effect.

Devine manages hundreds of rental properties across Sydney’s Inner West. We have homes to suit all types of households, from singles through to large families. With options at every price point, you’re bound to find the ideal home!

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