OK, Australia isn't a renters' paradise like Germany.
A report published this month revealed that over half of Australian tenants are living in a property that needs repairs, and a significant number are afraid to assert their rights in case of a retaliatory rent rise or eviction. Throughout the country, landlords are allowed to evict their tenants without giving a reason. And rental affordability is an evergreen issue, especially in the capital cities.
But momentum strengthening renters' rights built across the country in 2018.
Renters are a growing force in Australia and government policies are increasingly reflecting this. In most of the states and territories, laws were passed or introduced that gave tenants greater protections or power. Here are 11 things that happened in Australia this year that made life as a renter look a little better.
1. Victorian renters got the country's strongest protections.
2. NSW renters won the right to nail picture hooks to the wall without asking permission and got rent increases limited to one per year.
In October long-anticipated reforms to the NSW Residential Tenancies Act passed parliament. Under the changes, rental properties need to meet minimum standards, including being structurally sound and having adequate lighting. Rent increases are capped to one per year. Family violence victims won't be penalised for breaking a lease, and won't be liable for damage to property caused by someone else in a violent incident. Tenants can now make minor modifications to their property, like nailing a picture hook to a wall, without asking first. The changes are expected to come into effect next year.
However, despite a significant campaign from tenant advocates and the support of Labor and the Greens, the law did not get rid of no grounds evictions.
3. About 130,000 people made suggestions to the Queensland government on how to revamp its renting laws, which could lead to some big changes next year.
In Queensland, the government ran its "Open Doors To Renting Reform" from September to November, asking the public how to go about changing its tenancy laws in light of the growing numbers of renters and the fact that people are renting for longer. The last major review of the state's renting laws was in the 1970s. The government is now looking at the 130,000 responses. Queensland's housing minister Mick de Brenni has since said the government will "look closely" at the landmark Victorian reforms.
4. ACT renters came one step closer to being able to have pets.
5. A new law was introduced in WA, making it easier to nail furniture to the wall to protect children.
In 2015, 1-year-old Reef Kite was killed after a chest of drawers fell on him in the Perth rental home his family lived in. His mother says she had asked the landlord for permission to bolt the new chest of drawers to the wall, but had been refused.
Now the WA government has introduced a new law that makes it much easier for tenants to bolt furniture to the wall when it's for a child's safety. The landlord can only refuse to let them do it in limited circumstances, including if it would cause an asbestos risk. The tenant has to remove the item from the wall when they leave and cover the costs of returning the wall to its original condition. The bill is likely to pass next year.
6. NSW renters got a solution to the "paying-two-bonds-at-once-while-moving" problem.
In November a new law passed parliament that simplifies the bond process when tenants move house. Previously, tenants might have had to have two bonds lodged at once – one for their new property, one for their old property as they wait for it to be released – and be out of pocket for potentially thousands of dollars. The new law means that renters will be able to transfer the bond from Property A to Property B when the law comes into effect.
7. Renters in mouldy properties might get action from the federal government after a parliamentary committee investigated the health risks of mould.
8. The Victorian government promised to help renters become climate-friendly.
During the Victorian election campaign premier Daniel Andrews promised to make it easier for renters to get solar panels installed in their homes. Under the plan, the government would cover half the cost of installing panels, and the tenant and landlord would split the rest, paying over four years.
9. WA moved to make things easier for family violence victims.
In May the WA government introduced a new law that would make it easier for family violence victims to terminate their leases quickly (in seven days), without paying a fee, or remove a perpetrator's name from a lease. It would also let victims install surveillance cameras and change their locks. Last month, a parliamentary committee completed its review of the bill and recommended that parliament pass it. It is likely to pass next year.
10. The ACT government made it easier for renters to get loans for their rental bond.
Say you make enough money to be able to afford the rent on a place you've applied for, but you don't have enough in savings to pay for the bond upfront. The ACT government launched an online platform called Rental Bond Help this month that provides interest-free loans to cover bonds.
11. The federal opposition promised to make renting more affordable.
Hannah Ryan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Hannah Ryan at email@example.com.
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