Law reform is needed: ABC’s 7:30 agrees

February 14, 2020

This week, ABC’s 7:30 ran a four-part feature on housing issues within Australia. The team at Make Renting Fair QLD was particularly interested in the series, as was the Tenants Queensland CEO, Penny Carr:

From the ABC website

‘These are the stories we hear about daily on our advice service,” says Penny. “We’ve been raising the need for changes to provide greater stability, safety, the ability to create a home for a long time. When people from Deloitte and ex Productivity Commission are saying the same thing, you know that change is overdue!’ 

Here’s a summary of the key points from the show as they relate to the need for policy change.

Experts say law reform is required.

  • NICKI HUTLEY, PARTNER, DELOITTE ACCESS ECONOMICS: “We have a lot of laws that are around renting that favour overly the owner rather than the renter, particularly around security of tenure. Anyone who works in this space has consistently, for decades, talked about how far behind we are compared to Europe or even the US and yet we do nothing about it.”
  • BRENDAN COATES, GRATTAN INSTITUTE: “Many more Australians will be renting for much more or, in fact, their entire lives. In that world where you’re bringing up kids in the home, it is much more important that you have stability, and therefore, we do need to shift tenancy laws in favour of giving greater security of tenure to renters.”  

“We usually don’t have problems renting with our pet birds, but we really want to own a dog…”

January 29, 2020

We have been wanting to adopt a dog into our family for about three years now, but haven’t because we know how hard it is to find pet-friendly rentals. Instead, we keep budgies  as pets.   

Most of the time, birds are still accepted even when a property advertisement says “no pets”. Landlords tend to refuse cats and dogs instead.

During a recent house inspection, I mentioned our birds to the property manager who replied with a flat-out, “no pets.” I pushed and said, “They’re just budgies. Could we at least ask the owner?” She ended the inspection. I didn’t submit the application.

We have also had awful experiences with property managers, exit inspections and bogus bond claims we couldn’t afford to fight in QCAT; getting a dog adds an extra layer of complexity that we just don’t have the drive to fight through.

We’re now living tight and working overtime, trying to get a house deposit together so we can buy a home and finally get our fur-baby! Anonymous

Tell your MP that pets and people belong together!

Homeownership is not an option for all of us, and it isn’t fair Queenslanders have to sacrifice the benefits of pet ownership in order to rent a home.

The Palaszczuk government proposed changes that would make pet ownership easier for renters. Now that the consultation period has finished, you can continue to show your support for those changes by contacting your local MP.

Not sure what to say? Use our draft.  Unsure who your local MP is? Find out here. To ensure you don’t miss a thing, sign up to our newsletter today.

Cate sees the reforms as a win-win for landlords and tenants

December 20, 2019

“After reading the State government’s proposed reforms, I don’t see any changes that are outside the parameters of basic human respect and dignity,” says Cate, a South-East Queensland resident and landlord with two rental properties. In her opinion, the reforms will provide a better opportunity for the two-way relationship between a tenant and landlord to be fulfilled.

“If landlords want to earn money off a rental property, they have a responsibility to respect the people living in those homes,” she explains. “At the same time, tenants have a responsibility to look after the house and pay their rent on time. It’s a two-way street, and we need to look after each other.  When I sign a contract with a tenant, I expect that income because it pays my bills. They sign the contract and expect a place to call home where they can enrol their kids in school, access health care and go to work.”

Cate’s ability to understand the supportive relationship between tenants and lessors means she endorses the overall package.

When asked her opinion on proposed reforms to end without ground evictions, Cate says, ‘’If either of us have to end this agreement early, there has to be a reason. Making those reasons really specific is very important. Anything outside of the proposed reasons would probably be discriminatory and should not be allowed.”

Cate also understands that minimum housing standards are essential for both tenants and lessors, and they aren’t about bringing a house up to five-star standards. “No one is asking landlords to install ducted air-conditioning. It’s just about making sure a house is waterproof, that the kitchens and bathrooms work, and there isn’t a vermin problem,” she explains.

“If you own a rental property and you aren’t able to fulfil your duty to provide a safe and secure home, you shouldn’t have the property on the rental market,” Cate says. “And if it’s going to be a financial burden to bring your property up to standard for tenants, landlords need to make adjustments to their financial arrangements so the house can be made safe by them, or a new owner”

“The main point to remember is that to an extent, fair and ethical tenancies already happen. We don’t need to sensationalise the changes or fear the worst,” says Cate. “The changes safeguard both landlords and tenants and set fair and reasonable standards as the norm, not the exception.”

Gov’t proposals & what we think. Take Action!!

November 29, 2019

We think the government proposals are worth supporting. We need your help! You can use our thoughts (below) to fill in Q8 in the government’s online submission

Submissions close December 28. Feedback will be used by government to draft a tenancy law reform bill early next year.

1. Ending Tenancies Fairly

We strongly support the recommended option and the withdrawal of without ground notices to leave. We support the addition of the following reasonable grounds to end tenancies:

  • when the lessor or their immediate family will move in;
  • the premises will need to be vacant for at least four weeks to undertake significant repair or renovation; and.
  • for renters experiencing domestic or family violence.

We do not support any other additional grounds.

We believe there should be penalties applied for the misuse of the lawful grounds to end tenancies, and the potential for renters to claim compensation.

2. Minimum Standards

We strongly support the recommended option, the inclusion of minimum standards for rental properties and the strengthened repair and maintenance proposals outlined in the Regulatory Impact Statement. In particular we support the new repair orders so they will:

  • apply to a premises not a tenancy;
  • stop a rental property being rented out and/or rent capped until a repair order is complied with;
  • allow the Residential Tenancies Authority to enforce the order; and,
  • for advocates to be able to seek repair orders on behalf of renters.

3. Renting with Pets

We strongly support the recommended option that would require lessors to have a reasonable ground (prescribed by law) to deny a tenant’s request for a pet when it complies with other laws and by-laws prohibiting the pet/pet type.

In stage two, these reforms should go further to better support renters with pets during the application process.

We do not support a pet bond, because tenants already pay bonds. Any requirement for tenants to undertake carpet cleaning or pest control should only be related to the pet type. For example, flea control should be applicable for dogs and cats, but not goldfish.

4. Minor Modifications

We support the recommended option with some variation. Renters should have the ability to undertake health and safety or amenity minor modifications with prior notification to the lessor. A definition of minor modifications should be included in the changes and qualified tradesman used (only) when appropriate. If the lessor opposes the tenant’s proposed minor modifications, the lessor should be required to use the dispute resolution process within a prescribed timeframe.

A government fund should be established for low income renters who require health and safety modifications (e.g. grab rails) if they are required to restore the property on exit.

5. Domestic and Family Violence

We strong support the recommended option which allows a tenant or co-tenant experiencing domestic and family violence to end their tenancy more easily when they have evidence from specialist worker. We also support processes to help them get their bond back more quickly. and install safety and security devises.

Have your say Renting with Pets

November 27, 2019

Have your say today on PETS. Here’s the link to the government’s online survey.  It takes less than two minutes.  We think the government’s pet proposals will better support renters to keep pets and should be supported. At the same time, they don’t address issues for applicants with pets very well. We also reject the idea of pet bond.  Here’s the link https://www.yoursayhpw.engagementhq.com/…/survey_tools/rent…

The govt’s tenancy law reforms & how we rate them

November 24, 2019

Make Renting Fair in Qld has given the government proposals a quick rating  against our list of asks.

Our most important ask of removing without ground evictions is included, it is extremely welcomed and rates highly. There are two additional areas for changes proposed by government, both of which are positive. Some of our asks however are not included and left for stage two reforms, these do not get any rating. 

Overall, we welcome the proposals and consider they will go a long way to support renters to make a place their home.

Click on the headings below for an overview of the government’s proposal. We’ll soon provide you more information about what we like and what we think can be improved.  Get on board the campaign, government needs to hear our feedback to convert these proposals into law. 

Ending Tenancies Fairly

  • Includes the removal of without ground terminations

The following new grounds are added for lessor and agents to end agreements

  • Lessor or immediate family moving in
  • Significant repair or renovations are being undertaken
  • Sale of rental property requiring vacant possession (notice can be issued during the fixed term by a new owner but cannot take effect during the fixed term)
  • Serious or significant breach due to actions of a tenant, occupant or guest
  • Person is occupying the rental property without consent

New grounds for Tenants to end agreements

  • Rental property is not in good repair, is unfit for human habitation or does not comply with minimum housing standards
  • Lessor has not complied with a QCAT Repair Order to undertake repair or maintenance of the rental property within the specified time
  • Lessor provided false or misleading information about the tenancy agreement or rental property
  • Death of a co-tenant
  • Tenant is escaping domestic and family violence (DFV)

New grounds for the state to end agreements

  • Qld Gov’t owned rental accommodation is required for a public or statutory purpose
  • The Department of Housing requires the property to manage public housing as a scarce resource
  • Lessor/agent must provide reasonable grounds if refusing a tenant’s request to keep a pet
  • An explanation of reasonable grounds to be developed
  • Lessor/agent can seek a QCAT order to exclude pets/class of pet on reasonable grounds, order may be for a period of time or on-going
  • Allows for the taking of a pet bond OR inclusion of special term requiring carpet cleaning and pest control at the end of the tenancy.
  • ‘Encourages’ disclosure of any pet exclusions to be provided when advertising properties
  • Pet ‘resume’ form to be developed for voluntary use by prospective tenants

Rental housing quality and minimum housing standards

  • Sets out minimum standards  for weatherproofing & structural soundness; plumbing & drainage; security; standard of repair of fixtures and fittings; control of pests & vermin; ventilation; lighting & privacy; cooking & food prep facilities
  • Extended time for Ts to complete entry report
  • Increased monetary value for the emergency repairs a T can organise and claim back
  • Allows As to authorise emergency repairs to specified value if a lessor is uncontactable
  • Contact details for the lessor& nominated repairer to be provided.

New QCAT repair orders which:    

– attach to a property rather than a tenancy

– can prevent a property from being rented until ordered repairs undertaken

– will consider exceptional circumstances of Ls.

– are enforceable by the RTA

– provide for representatives to raise issues on behalf of Ts

Not included in stage one reforms

The topic is not included in these reforms but flagged for stage 2.

However, renters experiencing DFV who are co-Ts will be able to apply for their bond when they end their interest in the tenancy (see below). If agreed by the A/L bond is paid out (w/t requiring agreement  from other co/ts). Otherwise usual bond dispute processes apply.

Agent/Lessor may request top up bond from continuing co-tenants (see below).

The topic is not included in these reforms but flagged for stage 2

The topic is not included in these reforms but flagged for stage 2

Other Topics included in the government’s stage one reforms

DFV – Ending tenancies

  • Tenant can provide 7 days notice of intention to leave
  • Tenant is then not responsible for rent or other liabilities beyond notice time if they have evidence of DFV = Protection order or document from authorised professional (e.g. doctor; social worker; refuge/crisis worker; DFV worker/case manager; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical service worker.
  • Tenant does not have to provide forwarding address
  • Lessor/Agent must maintain privacy about the DFV situation
  • Lessor/Agent may make an urgent QCAT app to ensure veracity of situation.

IF there are co-tenants:

  • Lessor/Agent must inform co-tenants that of the vacating tenant
  • At end of the tenant’s notice period provide the co-tenants w 7 days to decide if they continue the tenancy.

IF the co-Ts do not wish to stay

  • Lessor/Agent provides 21 days notice
  • Co-tenants are not liable for end of tenancy costs e.g. rent after the 21 days notice, advertising etc.

IF the co-tenants want to stay

  • The tenancy continues
  • Remaining tenant/s may have to increase bond if leaving tenant was a bond contributor

Two catergies of Minor Modifications have been developed: 

1) health, safety, accessibility and security;

2) amenity or personalisation

The following applies to both categories of minor modifications

  • A definition of minor mods will be included distinct from current sections which apply to fixtures.
  • Tenants must have work undertaken by qualified tradesperson when appropriate.
  • Tenants must comply with by-laws etc.
  • Current requirements for agreement between parties about end of tenancy ‘make good’ or leaving the changes apply
  • Any damage caused by Tenants is Tenant’s responsibility to fix
  • Future consideration will be given to ‘restoration’ bonds.

The following applies to the health, safety, accessibility and security minor modifications

  • Tenants can make minor modifications for health, safety, accessibility, and security reasons, including access to basic telecommunications, must inform the Lessor/Agent but do not need consent.
  • However, the Lessor/Agent may apply for order preventing changes if they have reasonable grounds

The following applies to the  amenity or personalisation minor modficatons

  • Tenants must provide 7 days notice to the Lessor/Agent
  • The Lessor/Agent must respond w/in 7 days (if park manager or owner corps involved Lessor/Agent may seek and extension)
  • The Lessor/Agent cannot unreasonably withhold consent
  • Tenants must pursue DR and QCAT if there is a dispute

We’re analysing the Govt’s proposals

November 20, 2019

The Queensland Government has released its proposed changes to tenancy laws! https://www.yoursayhpw.engagementhq.com/RentingInQLD

Make Renting Fair in Qld is studying these proposed changes. At first impression the proposals are welcomed and go a long way to support renters to make a place their home  (see the list of our 7 asks on the home page).
Our key, and most important ask, of removing without ground evictions, is included in the government’s proposals which is good news!
However, we’re still analysing the detail of the proposals to compare them with the changes we’ve been pushing for and will come back soon with our findings.

HEAR HEAR – The governments proposed tenancy laws open for consultation

November 16, 2019

The Palaszczuk government has released its first round of proposals today for the reform of renting laws in Queensland! The proposals are contained in a Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) with a six week consultation period closing on December 28. The documents are available at www.qld.gov.au/rentinginqld

There is plenty of opportunity in the proposal to make renting fairer in Queensland including:

  • Ending Tenancies – the removal of without ground tenancy terminations
  • Safety and Security – including minimum standards for rental properties;  new orders to enable renters to have repairs attended to;  rent cap properties where orders are not complied with; and make an order against a property rather than a tenancy.
  • Domestic and Family Violence – to allow people experiencing DFV to end the agreement quickly, regain their bond and broaden the evidence accepted about the situation.
  • Minor modifications –to allow more streamlined process for renters to implement safety and amenity modifications.
  • Pets – making it easier for tenants to have pets.

How you can help!  Make yourself aware of the proposals and submit a response to the proposals. Make Renting Fair will be making a thorough analysis of the proposals and will let you know what we support and don’t support.

Soon we will be provide more detail on how you can effectively engage in the process.

If you haven’t already signed up, please do at www.makeretingfair.org.au and receive supporter updates.  We all need to be involved to Make Renting Fair in Queensland.

“When moving to the city we really struggled to find pet-friendly accommodation…I nearly had to cancel everything.””

November 13, 2019

“When moving to the city from regional Queensland, we really struggled to find pet-friendly accommodation. I had accepted a job offer and needed to find a home, but it was so hard I very nearly had to cancel everything.

“Despite having references from our vet and doing everything possible to prove we were responsible pet owners, most properties wouldn’t accept us because we had two large dogs. Or, when we did find a property that accepted pets, it wasn’t really suitable at all. The photographs used online were deceptive, and the backyard was actually much too small.

“Our life went on hold. It was an incredibly stressful time. We’re very lucky to have found a home just in time.” Tarleigh

Take action!

To support our initiative to change Queensland laws and make renting fair for pet owners, sign up for our campaign updates and share this post with your friends.

If you have experienced unfair rental practices related to pet ownership, share your story with us. Email [email protected] or send us a video on our Facebook or Twitter page.

Lets enforce basic standards of rental properties!

November 6, 2019

Lets give tenants basic standards to help make a house a home and contribute to people’s well-being and housing affordability.

We can help make this happen by changing the law to introduce periodic inspections by an independent party and by letting tenants know what, if any, repairs and maintenance have been done on a rental property.

Share our video and get on board the campaign to Make Renting Fair in Queensland!

HAVE YOUR SAY.  ‘THE THING I MOST WANT TO CHANGE ABOUT RENTING IN QUEENSLAND IS….’
Send us a 30 second talking head video (for use on our social and other public media sites) to our Facebook page or email to    [email protected]