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Time for stronger tenancy rights for Victorians with disability

In a move that stands to benefit legions of Victorian tenants, the Victorian Government recently announced 130 reforms to make renting fairer.

But one group of Victorians is at risk of being overlooked in this long-awaited push towards a better system of safeguards for renters.

For people with disability, access to secure, accessible and affordable housing can make all the difference in living independent and meaningful lives.

VCOSS believes that people with disability living in supported accommodation should have the same tenancy rights as people living in the general community, with additional protections.

This week, the Victorian Parliament is debating the Disability Service Safeguards Bill 2018. The Bill includes changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 to provide stronger tenancy rights for people living in specialist disability accommodation (SDA), giving them greater choice and control. For instance, under the Bill:

  • People living in specialist disability accommodation will continue to be protected by many safeguards under the current Disability Act 2006 under a specialist residency agreement, including access to community visitors and requirements to help relocate people if they need to move quickly.
  • If they wish, and have the capacity to consent, people with disability also have the choice of opting for a standard tenancy agreement, giving them equal rights to renters without disability, and the opportunity to live with friends or family.
  • People with disability will have more reliable access to information, with the expectation that SDA providers will communicate with tenants in the language, mode of communication and terms that are easiest to understand.
  • People’s privacy will be protected, with SDA providers having entry rights to residents’ homes in line with other landlords (while entry by the Community Visitors program and other safeguarding bodies will not change).
  • Residents will be able to seek assistance when repairs are not addressed, and apply to VCAT for urgent repairs.
  • And the new section of the Residential Tenancies Act will be regulated by Consumer Affairs Victoria, in line with other tenancy rights.

VCOSS supports these reforms, which can help Victorians with disability towards the same goal that everybody needs to live healthy and meaningful lives: an accessible, affordable and appropriate home.