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Tenancy reforms needed to reflect modern housing realities

Victoria’s tenancy laws should be reformed to reflect the reality of long-term renting and provide greater protections and security for renters, according to the Victorian Council of Social Service.

“The Victorian Government is to be congratulated for initiating a wide-ranging review of tenancy law, which is well overdue. We now have an opportunity to improve our rental laws to help secure safe, affordable and appropriate housing for everyone who needs it,” said Emma King, CEO of VCOSS.

“Home ownership is increasingly out of reach for many Victorians and significant numbers of people are renting long-term, potentially for life. We need to modernise tenancy laws to reflect this new reality, by strengthening security of tenure in private rental, adopting minimum rental standards and protecting tenants from discrimination and unnecessary evictions.”

“While renters do not own the property they live in, it is their home, and their ability to preserve the security, privacy and liveability of their homes needs to be protected. Yet Australia’s tenancy laws provide some of the weakest protections for renters in the OECD.”

“Renters are disadvantaged in our housing system as they are depend heavily on the goodwill of landlords to maintain a decent standard of housing at reasonable rents. If landlords behave unethically, renters have limited recourse to the law, which can be time consuming and complex, and face high costs of moving and the difficulty of securing another home if they must find another home. At its worst, the breakdown of tenancies can lead to homelessness if evictions take place at short notice and tenants are living on low incomes.”

“Tenants also need to have an adequate range of support to enforce their rights, and secure a home if they are at risk of homelessness or eviction. In addition, tenants need to be confident that they will not experience discrimination in the housing market, due to factors unrelated to maintaining a tenancy such as having a disability, their cultural background, being Aboriginal, or their age.”

“Stronger rights and protections are common in rental markets around the world and Australia needs to begin the work of reforming our laws to reflect the modern realities of our housing market.”