NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has promised a string of new protections for renters on fixed and periodic contracts, while issuing a blunt warning to dodgy real estate agents.
Mr Perrottet on Friday announced a “reasonable grounds” model for evictions for renters on periodic leases, plus an extended notice period to end fixed term leases from 30 days to 45 days.
Currently, landlords must give 90 days to end a periodic lease if no reason is given.
They also have the option to offer three to five year leases and will adopt rental bond rollover scheme – something also proposed by Labor.
Fair Trading officers will also be deployed to rental inspections to ensure agents are abiding by guidelines and not “pitting a tenant against another tenant’.
The election pledges comes as the state is locked in a crisis where soaring demand and limited stock have caused rents to soar, with some tenants reporting increases of hundreds of dollars a week.
Rental vacancy rates rate in Sydney dropped to 1.6 per cent in January 2023, after sitting at 2.3 per cent in March 2022.
The vacancy rate dropped to at 0.8 per cent in regional areas like Albury and the Mid-North Coast, figures from the Real Estate Institute of NSW reveal.
Vacancy rates for rentals had dipped to 1.6 per cent. SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – NewsWire Photos JANUARY 21, 2023: Sydney’s rental crisis has reached new heights as renters complain of unfair price hikes. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Jeremy Piper
Premier’s warning to dodgy agents
During the announcement, the Premier also issued a scathing warning to dodgy real estate agents skirting regulations.
It comes after the government banned unsolicited rent bidding on December 17, with agents now not allowed to list a property without a fixed price, or ask renters to pay a higher rental rate to secure a home.
“I say to real estate agents today, those warnings have been issued. If that continues we will fine you,” he said on Friday.
“Do not play tenants off each other.”
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet made the announcement in Padstow on Friday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Pool/ Flavio Brancaleone
Since the law was introduced, Fair Trading Minister Victor Dominello said six warnings have been issued by Fair Trading and called on people to report “agents doing the wrong thing”.
Mr Perrottet confirmed that discussions would be held with stakeholders to ensure a “balanced approach” to new reform, and acknowledged financial struggles faced by some landlords like mum and pop investors.
“I don’t want a policy change to create a bigger problem than the one that we’re trying to solve,” he said.
Labor have also flagged more policy promises for renters closer to March 25.
Their policies include a ban on unfair evictions, plus introducing a Rental Commissioner to advocate for renters and introduce reform, including making it easier for renters to apply with pets.
Tenant’s Union welcomes move, more changes needed
The emphasis on rental rights from both parties have been welcomed by Tenant’s Union CEO Leo Patterson Ross.
But while the reforms are “significant”, he said more could be done.
Part of this included making sure no-fault evictions need to be applied to fixed-term leases, not just periodic leases.
“Otherwise, you see that everyone is put on fixed terms and the reform has no benefit,” Patterson Ross said.
“We know Queensland removed no-ground evictions for periodic agreements, but not fixed terms. And we saw a big rush on evictions to get people out of periodic terms.”
While Labor’s ban on no-fault evictions also only applies to periodic leases, a promised Rental Commission will have the power to determine reasonable grounds to ending a fixed term agreement.
Tenants’ Union CEO Leo Patterson Ross said no-fault evictions needed to be given to periodic and fixed term leases. Picture: Supplied.
Mr Patterson Ross suggested that Fair Trading rental inspectors could also check for property damage, necessary repairs and whether a property is “fit for habitation,” while attending inspections, while also insuring against rent bidding.
He also advocated NSW take after the ACT’s stance on rent increases, which can only go 110 per cent above Consumer Price Index.
That means that if the CPI had gone up 3 per cent, you’d be able to have a 3.3 per cent rent increase. And then above that limit, the landlord can go to the tribunal and seek a high amount if the tenant doesn’t agree,” said Mr Patterson Ross.
Examples can include major renovations and property improvements.
“That is a much more reasonable approach. It rewards landlords for improving properties and it ensure rents aren’t increase at these rates of 20 to 30 per cent,” she said.
Read related topics:Dominic PerrottetNSW State Election 2023