An Illawarra tenants’ advocate insists that eliminating “no-grounds” evictions is needed to ensure greater security for renters.
Housing advocates, renters and decision-makers visited NSW Parliament earlier this week.
Proposed changes to rental laws contained in the Residential Tenancies Act were due to be debated on Wednesday.
Advocates say while there are positive changes in the bill, the proposed reforms will keep “unfair” no-grounds evictions in place in NSW.
A periodic (continuing) agreement is a tenancy for an indefinite period.
A tenant automatically moves to a periodic agreement when a fixed term agreement ends, if the tenant remains and no new agreement is signed.
Illawarra and South Coast Tenants Services team leader Warren Wheeler said during a periodic agreement, a landlord can issue a ‘no-grounds’ notice at any time, without having to state a reason.
“Also, towards the end of the fixed term, a landlord can issue a 30-day notice without having to state a reason, other than the lease has come to an end,” he said.
Mr Wheeler said many of the proposed legislative changes were positive – such as limiting rent increases to once per 12-month period, and providing clarity regarding minor alterations to properties – but no-grounds notices needed to be removed.
“Until that happens, renters in NSW, whatever rights they’re afforded are going to be undermined by the risk of being kicked out on a whim, without having any reason,” he told the Mercury.
“What we see on a daily basis is tenants calling us with concerns about landlords not doing repairs, landlords accessing without notice, or acting in an intimidating way.
“We tell them what the law says and how they can assert their rights in those areas, but we also have to tell them that in response, the landlord may issue one of these notices.
“And they are very difficult to challenge and defend.”
Mr Wheeler said the reforms were mostly positive, “but until that is fixed, it doesn’t really matter what they do with the legislation”.
“You can give tenants all the rights in the world, (but) they’re going to be undermined by that one provision.”
Wednesday’s event was co-ordinated by the NSW Make Renting Fair and national Everybody’s Home campaigns.
An open letter from 46 housing scholars was formally launched at the event, declaring that no-grounds evictions are the most serious problem for renters in NSW, and the failure of the government to address this problem is a “missed opportunity”.
Everybody’s Home spokesperson Katherine McKernan said they were calling on NSW politicians to make renting fair in NSW, "with the right for everyone in NSW to a home, whether they own it or not".
“These changes are like putting the cherry and icing on a cake that hasn’t finished cooking yet,” Leo Patterson Ross, Make Renting Fair spokesperson said.
We need to get the fundamentals right in order for the system to be fair for everybody.
“We need better protections against unfair evictions.”