Why it’s important to end without ground evictions

March 13, 2020

At Make Renting Fair, the biggest issue were trying to change is getting rid of unfair evictions. These are used to target renters who have done nothing wrong and are one of the reasons renters often need to move house. We believe a home should be safe and stable and fixing this law will mean renters can feel more at home.

Terminating tenancies without any grounds creates fear for tenants who become afraid of retaliatory or discriminatory eviction, and allows dodgy landlords to get away with subpar housing.

Here are some real-life examples from Queenslanders.

These are real case studies, but their names have been changed and identities protected, because they were afraid speaking publicly would have a negative impact on their tenancies. 

George’s story:

George has a five-year-old child and found asbestos in the backyard of his rental property on the Sunshine Coast. He asked for the asbestos to be removed, without success. Fearing for his family’s health, he tried to get it rectified but the landlord refused.  The only option left for George was to try to end the tenancy early. George had the stress and worry of making an application to QCAT (which he won) and the added problem of finding another property and moving at his expense. George has now moved but is worried about being perceived as a troublemaker by his new property agent. He wants to support our campaign publicly, but he’s too scared for fear of reprisals. He believes minimum housing standards and improved processes for getting repairs done should be introduced into Queensland tenancy laws.

Pamela’s story:

Pamela spoke to her real estate agent about a couple of issues within the new building she was renting. The basement carpark lighting wasn’t working adequately, and she had a few security concerns about the building in general. She was shocked to receive a Form 12 the next day and says, “I was stunned to discover the landlord’s agent would get rid of me rather than attend to the building’s issues and residents’ safety…I wonder how many people realise how one-sided the law is. I have been a landlord and still didn’t! The laws need to be changed, but supporting the MRF campaign could be held against me. I’m going to think twice before talking to an agent about a building fault again.

Betty’s story:

Betty is in her late 80’s and had repairs done to her rental property in the outer suburbs of Brisbane. Once the repairs were completed, the landlord left some items on the ground, and as a consequence, Betty fell. She took steps against the landlord because of her injuries. In return, she received a notice to leave without grounds, which she fought because she considered it was retaliatory.  With the help of a tenancy advice worker, Betty took her case to QCAT and won. Betty now lives on a periodic tenancy, fearful of another notice to leave without grounds. She’s too scared to publicly support our campaign in case it causes more trouble, and she has to leave her home. If she hadn’t had the support of the advice worker, she doesn’t know where she’d be now.

Sally’s story:

Sally is a single parent in North Queensland who has lived in the same property for five years. Over the last year, she has had consistent water leaks in her bedroom. Sally endures constant drips that occasionally turned into a stream, splashing through her bedroom. Sally requested a repair, but no action was taken. When Sally said she would make a formal complaint, she was told a formal complaint might result in her lease not being renewed later in the year. She strongly supports our campaign but is worried the agent might make good on her threats to end her tenancy if she speaks out.

Community service providers who work in association with real estate agents are also not immune.

  1. A community service provider called Assist,* supported a local tenant who was moving because of domestic violence and social issues. Assist helped the tenant move into a new property, but the house was dirty and infested with cockroaches. With support from Assist, the tenant asked for pest control and cleaning to be done. In response, the real estate agency managing the property threatened not to work with Assist in the future.
  2. A second community service provider in regional Queensland called Help* supports the State government’s proposed tenancy improvements. Because Help is based in a small town, they are concerned about reprisal if they publicly support our campaign.

Ordinary Queenslanders should not live in fear of eviction or be punished for asking for better than subpar housing. We deserve better than our existing tenancy laws.

_________________________

Take action today!

Email your local Member of Parliament to let them know you support an end to without grounds evictions.

Tell us about your own eviction experiences by emailing: [email protected], or send us a video on our Facebook or Twitter page.

Stay up to date with our campaign news by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

*Not the real names of the community service providers.

“If it weren’t for my dog, I wonder if I would still be here today.”

February 27, 2020
Cassie’s entire family belongs together.

Pets have always been a huge part of my life and always will be, however, having a dog while renting has caused me plenty of heartaches.

I got my dog, Kenji, right before I found out I was pregnant. I had been battling depression, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after fleeing a domestic violence situation. I was medicated and attending regular psychology sessions, but nothing helped me quite like Kenji. Words can’t explain how her unconditional love helped me. She let me feel secure and safe in my home.  She let me feel peace again.

I have never received any complaints about my dog, I have good pet references from my previous landlord, and Kenji is registered with the local council and her healthcare needs are met. Despite being a responsible pet owner, and always receiving my full bond back when moving, renting with a dog has been difficult.

Last year, I was a few days off becoming homeless with my one-year-old baby and Kenji. I simply couldn’t find anywhere to live that would permit pets.

I had been approved for National Renting Assistance Scheme (NRAS) housing and was also on the social housing register. But all the listings refused pets.

I was greatly upset, and couldn’t understand why the government would discriminate against my need to keep my dog. My family began to pressure me to give up Kenji, but I couldn’t.

In the end, I got lucky. My mother stepped in and offered to put her name on a lease with me and subsidise my rent by $50 a week. Not everyone has this luxury, and to be honest, I still can’t afford the rent I’m paying but it was all I could find that would allow me to keep my dog.

Each week I juggle bills, requesting extensions for payments, and some weeks I have requested assistance from various emergency relief organisations to buy food and petrol. But my rent is always my priority and is always paid on time.

My baby is now two-years-old and starting childcare so I can finish studying and apply for work. I need to improve my financial situation before I drown in bills. The struggle is real. I feel desperate for those who do not have a family member to help, as I did.

I want the government to support renters to own a pet. Homeowners are allowed pets, but not me. If it weren’t for my dog, I wonder if I would still be here today. Kenji is my world, and my daughter adores her too.

I am proud to say that these days, my PTSD and anxiety are in remission, and I believe Kenji had a role in that. Pets are life-saving, and I am thankful you are all highlighting this issue. I hope we can make real progress. Cassie


Take action!

Sign our petition and tell The Hon Mick de Brenni that pets and people belong together.

The Animal Welfare League QLD joins Make Renting Fair

February 26, 2020

 

The Animal Welfare League Queensland (AWLQ) has joined forces with Make Renting Fair QLD, and formally asked the Hon Mick de Brenni to amend Queensland’s tenancy laws.

“Many people rely on their pets for companionship. It should be unlawful to discriminate against someone because they have a pet as part of their family,” says the AWLQ’s Strategic Director Dr Joy Verrinder.  “We know from the thousands of people who adopt animals from our four busy Rehoming Centres in South East Queensland each year, that animals are very important in people’s lives. We also share their heartbreak and devastation when they are surrendering a much-loved dog or cat because a body corporate or landlord has told them they cannot keep their pet.”

A quarter of animals surrendered to AWLQ each year are due to accommodation issues including people not being able to find pet-friendly accommodation due to agents or landlords not allowing pets, moving and homelessness.

“We are often contacted by people seeking help about what to do when they are refused permission to keep their pet,” Dr Verrinder continues. “Most people feel powerless in this situation. If they complain or question the decision, they may lose their accommodation. If they move, a massive effort is required to find a suitable place to live with their animal.

“To limit the ability for people to keep animals who are often their best friends is outrageous. Just as people are entitled to rent with their partner, child, sister or brother, pet owners should be entitled to rent with their pets. There will be varying levels of responsibility in caring for properties amongst all people regardless of whether or not they own a pet. There are also already safeguards in place for landlords through the existing rental bond system, as well as opportunities to insure with companies who cover pet damage.”

AWLQ and Make Renting Fair in Queensland support legislation which allows tenants to keep pets. A tenant would still be required to seek consent from a property owner. The property owner can only refuse with approval from the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal based on a set of prescribed reasons. Similar legislation has already been passed in Victoria, the ACT as well as NT.

Currently, a landlord can refuse pets in their rental properties without providing any reasonable grounds.

The Residential Tenancies Authority reports only about 10% of Queensland’s rental properties allow pets. Yet, 84% of families either have or would like to have a pet.


Take action!

Support our petition and ask the Queensland Government to introduce legislation to make it easier for renters to keep their pets.

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.