VCOSS recently provided a submission Making rental housing secure to stage two of the Fairer Safer Housing review of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.
An increasing number of Victorians are living in private rental for longer periods of their lives. Private rental is no longer a transitional housing option for many people, and the shortage of social housing means many low-income and vulnerable people and families are increasingly living in private rental properties. There are now more than half a million rental households, 35 per cent more than in 1996. Of these, more than 275,000 are low-income Victorian households.
This large group of people needs to have confidence they can make a home for themselves and their families, without the constant threat of disruption, financial upheaval and homelessness that can accompany eviction. Many tenants are living with uncertainty and are often forced to move more than they would like. For example, in 2010, 83 per cent of renters surveyed had moved at least once in the last five years, compared to 23 per cent of home owners.
VCOSS believes eviction should be a last resort. In order to live in safe, secure and stable homes, renters should be allowed to remain in a property with adequate protection from short notice periods to vacate, unreasonable termination of their leases and eviction. However, Victoria’s private rental market has weak security of tenure compared to similar international jurisdictions.
Residential tenancy legislation can do more to encourage longer tenancies, protect against unnecessary and unreasonable evictions, and where no alternative is found, provide enough time for people to find new homes.
VCOSS’ submission to the Security of Tenure Issues Paper makes recommendations to improve the protections for the large and growing number of people in Victoria living in rental homes, with specific focus on recommendations that help reduce poverty and disadvantage among tenants. Some of the recommendations in the submission include:
- Moving towards a private rental system where leases are open-ended and can only be terminated for a good reason.
- Removing the existing right of a landlord to evict a tenant without providing a reason or grounds.
- Introducing a ‘reasonable in the circumstances’ requirement in evictions that allows VCAT to consider the reasonableness of the eviction and the hardship likely to be experienced by the parties as a result.
- Providing sufficient notice to tenants evicted through no fault of their own, to enable them to find alternative accommodation and to reduce financial hardship as much as possible.
- Adopting a mechanism to limit the amount rent can be increased, to protect tenants from arbitrary, retaliatory or excessive rent increases.
- Ensuring landlords do not unreasonably refuse permission to modify properties to support ageing, disability or health conditions.
- Increasing safety and security for women and families experiencing family violence, and help hold perpetrators to account for their violence, including by better apportioning liability for damage or rental arrears.
- Providing better protection to co-tenants and marginal renters not currently covered by the Residential Tenancies Act.
The review of the Residential Tenancies Act began with the release of a consultation paper Laying the Groundwork. The VCOSS submission to this first stage of the review is available on our website.
VCOSS will continue to engage with members, stakeholders and Consumer Affairs Victoria as the review progresses and additional issues papers are released for consultation. To provide your feedback and input to VCOSS on the review of the Residential Tenancies Act please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Victorian Government, Residential Tenancies Act Review: Laying the Groundwork – Consultation Paper, p.16
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Housing occupancy and costs 2013-14: Additional tables – low income rental households, Cat. No 4130, 2015.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, General Social Survey, Cat. No 4159, 2010,