In the leadup to the Queensland State election, we have asked each of the major parties about their policies in relation to changing and improving our State’s tenancy laws.
We put forward 10 questions to the parties. To date only the Greens, the LNP and the ALP have responded, with a promise to respond having been received from Katter’s Australian Party. We will be publishing their responses as we receive them, and updating the scorecard below.
Neutral Response or Status Quo
No Response Received
General Policy Supportive of Renters Rights
Commitment to support and improve renters rights during next Qld Parliament (2020-24)
Support for Independent Tenancy advisory Services in Qld
End No Grounds Evictions
Make it easier for Renters to keep pets
Make it easier for renters to get their bonds back
Given that we currently seem no closer to finding out when the state government will progress the paused Tenancy Law Reform Process, we are seeking to highlight the issue with all candidates standing in the upcoming state election.
Will you send a letter to your local candidates?
Follow this linkto easily send emails to your local candidates and ask their views on better protections for renters.
Also keep an eye on our blog, Facebook and Twitter. We’ve sent our own letters to all of the major political parties and we’ll be launching a scorecard in the next couple of days.
Michelle lives in South-East Queensland with her two teenage daughters, and until more recently, her ex-partner. The house they rented had termite damage, rats in the wall and rotting timber. Every request Michelle made for repairs, was ignored.
“I almost fell through floorboards once, and there are support beams that are rotten,” says Michelle. “I think it is dangerous that these repairs have not made. I believe there should be legislation for minimum standards.”
When COVID-19 struck, Michelle’s partner lost income. Because Michelle is on a carer’s pension looking after one of her children, they fell behind on a few weeks’ rent.
“I think falling behind on rent was held against me, despite all the repair issues I had to live with. I was treated worse,” Sandra says. “After a while, I was able to negotiate to break our lease because my partner and I separated. I couldn’t afford the place on my own. But even breaking the lease came with financial penalties. And now, I can’t find somewhere else to live.
“It’s tough to find somewhere I can afford on a pension, that’s near my children’s school and suitable for a family. In the past, the kids have had to change schools because we rented and had to move quite far away. I feel discriminated against because I’m a carer’s pension, and the pandemic has made things harder.
“I want renting to be fairer for all. Houses should have minimum standards. Repairs should be made. People shouldn’t be discriminated against, and children shouldn’t need to be uprooted. We don’t deserve to be treated as second-class citizens.”
You’d have to wonder if the next lot of renters who move in will inherit the repair issues.
Use this link to email the Housing Minister and ask for the moratorium on evictions to be extended.
The moratorium on evictions is due to end September 29, putting many Queenslander renters at risk of homelessness. At the same time, both the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments will reduce. Predictions are that another 740,000 Australians will plunge into poverty.
From September 30, landlords will be able to go to court and evict tenants. Rent reductions for COVID-impacted tenants will return to their ‘starting rate,’ and rents owed during the protection phase of the moratorium will become due.
Tenants Queensland reports that increasing numbers of people are contacting their service expressing concern about potential homelessness, unresolved rent disputes and anxiety for the debt they’ve accrued while renting during the pandemic.
Now is not the time to end the moratorium on evictions.
We’re asking you all to help call for an extension to the evictions moratorium by sending a letter to our Housing Minister, Mick de Brenni,
By continuing the moratorium protections until the end of the year, and preferably tapering those protections into 2021, COVI-affected Queenslanders will be better protected from homeless, as well as the emotional, financial and physical stress a premature eviction would cause.
At Make Renting Fair, the biggest issue we’re 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 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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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
Sign our petition and tell The Hon Mick de Brenni that pets and people belong together.
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.
Support our petition and ask the Queensland Government to introduce legislation to make it easier for renters to keep their pets.
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:
‘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 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.