Rent.com.au, together with the Tenants’ Union of New South Wales, has used International Tenants’ Day 2018 (October 1) to emphasise a need to ‘de-stigmatise’ renting, as more Australians look to renting as a deliberate and practical choice.
Around the world, community groups, organisations and tenancy unions use International Tenants’ Day to promote the need for an overhaul of tenancy laws. This year is no different with the theme: ‘Life on a lease, a lease on life’.
A changing rental landscape and a market keen to stay for the longer-term
Rent.com.au Chief Executive Officer, Greg Bader said the country’s rental sector has changed and will continue to change over time. “Today our average renter is younger, more likely to be earning a good wage and is choosing to rent less out of necessity, but more for logical and practical reasons,” he said.
“Affordability is still a significant factor for many (especially the last few years in Sydney and Melbourne, and more recently in Hobart), but we are also seeing that people enjoy the flexibility (financial, location) that renting can offer – in fact, around 20% of our customers are actually property owners, just not in the location they prefer to live in at the moment.”
“Rent.com.au has continued to evolve its Renter Resume product (a personal renting profile for renters) based on customer needs,” Mr Bader said. “A recent addition to our process has allowed customers (both renters and landlords) to indicate their preferred lease duration during the application and listing processes, respectively.”
“What we can see is that only around 40% of renters are looking for a 12-month lease, and yet 80% will end up with one. Even more telling, 40% of our renters also indicated a preference for a lease longer than 12 months, and yet less than 10% of those people ended up with one. This sort of imbalance is not in the best interest of either landlords or renters, neither of whom want the instability that results.”
Recent changes made by the Andrews Government in Victoria to give tenants more rights do go some way to show governments are prepared to look at change. “We surveyed our Victorian renter database in the lead-up to these changes, and the issue of lease duration was one of the major focuses for the respondent group,” Mr Bader said.
“What tenants want is a place to live – a home – and the ability to manage that property as their home. Our customers overwhelmingly support these changes, which if enacted, will go some way to addressing some of the imbalance that has existed in the past”.
“We would like to see Federal and State governments take this further. One of the real challenges we have in Australia is that ‘mums and dads’ are left to supply the majority of our rental stock. That in itself is not the problem, but it does impact overall lease security – situations change for individuals, the property may need to be sold or moved back into. Ideally, a more balanced supply of stock could be developed, including purpose-built rental properties. Our local and State governments have significant levers that can be used (zoning/density/legislation) to encourage more development in this area.”
Using Tenants’ Day as an opportunity to further conversation
Leo Patterson Ross, Senior Policy Officer with the Tenants’ Union of NSW said Australia lags behind many countries worldwide when it comes to the rights of renters. “International Tenants’ Day highlights the work needed to bring Australia and NSW into the modern world. We need to have a much closer look at the way we house ourselves,” he said.
“The basic proposition around much of the world is that as long as you keep meeting the terms of your contract and the property remains available for rent then you get to decide when you leave your home.”
“The fixed term contract should be seen as a promise from the tenant to stay for at least that long. At the moment, for a few months at a time, it’s the only protection against unreasonable eviction a tenant can hope for. This is why there’s such a mismatch between what tenants would like and what they get. As the numbers of families with children and older people who rent increases, this situation should no longer be acceptable to our community or our governments. “
With a growing cohort of long-term renters as well as people choosing to rent as a lifestyle choice, Australia should be looking to lead the world not be left behind.”