Renters’ Rights: Three years on


Three years after the introduction of Victoria’s new rental rules, the changes to the Residential Tenancies Act are ‘only just starting’ to make a real impact to renters’ lives.

This is the assessment from lead lawyer at Tenants Victoria, Ben Cording.

In the latest Renters’ Rights Rundown, Mr Cording told the forum that some of the biggest improvements from the legal changes are associated with the Equal Opportunity Act, which now covers renters.

“It creates a global awareness. So whenever you apply for a rental property, now they have to actually give you a full statement: ‘This is what discrimination is, these are what are protected attributes’.”

“It gives someone a much stronger position to say you’ve engaged in discrimination,” he said.

Mr Cording also deemed getting rid of no-fault evictions “a cracker” move, saying it has improved stability for renters.

The Tenants Victoria legal expert told the forum minimum standards have, according to some research, led to improvements in the housing being offered in the rental market, but renters are still struggling to assert their rights in a burning hot market, and many are a long way from realising the dream (and the essential service) of safe, stable and affordable housing.

“Has it had an impact? Absolutely, it has. But the pressure, all of this anxiety about being able to have an essential service, comes from supply. It comes from affordability and benchmarking.”

“So when we talk about the rent increase framework … there is no cap. We have no benchmark that refers to the hardship on the renter, which ironically we did in older legislation, in the old 1958 Act. There was ‘what’s going to be the impact on the renter?’ And we don’t have that anymore.”

“So, has it had an impact? Yes. But are we impacting the right spots? We’re only really just starting to look at them.”

Mr Cording provided practical tips for renters and support workers about topics including getting a first foothold in the rental market without any references, how the laws apply to people in social and public housing, and attending VCAT.

“The biggest challenge for people is that they’re scared to go [to VCAT], they’re scared of retaliation … There’s a whole bunch of baggage, legitimate baggage that we need to try and unpack and understand to get our clients to feel safe and even confident to get there.”

Other topics included how the new rules are operating in relation to:

  • Evictions
  • Pets
  • Discrimination
  • Rent increases
  • Rent arrears
  • Minimum standards
  • Modifications
  • Bonds
  • Family violence
  • VCAT

“We know that if people say yes, I have a dog, you don’t always find out why you don’t get your rental property. They don’t come back and say…  this is why you didn’t get. It doesn’t work like that, which makes it really hard for people.”

A full transcript of the session and a copy of Mr Cording’s presentation are available here.

VCOSS’s new report Renting in Victoria will be available soon: it’s a deep dive into the current realities of renting, with insights from community sector workers.

VCOSS is the peak body for Victoria’s social and community sector, and the state’s premier social advocacy body.

We work towards a Victoria free from poverty and disadvantage, where every person and community experiences genuine wellbeing.

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