National rental report does not paint full picture of tenant experience: REIWA

A report from consumer watchdog CHOICE, together with National Shelter and The National Association of Tenant Organisations, claims that over 50 per cent of tenants are living in properties that need repairs. However, industry bodies say the report isn’t reflective of the full story.

According to REIWA, the issues raised in the Disrupted: the consumer experience of renting in Australia report are concerning, but the cases highlighting tenants being extremely dissatisfied with their rental experience represent only a small proportion of the private rental market.

The national report, released today, found 51 per cent of Australian tenants were in homes in need of repairs and that tenants were required to move more often than they would like due to insecure tenancies, which was putting them under undue financial stress.

REIWA President Damian Collins said that, while the Institute was taking the issues raised in the report seriously, it was important to remember this was not reflective of the experience of the vast majority of tenants.

“There is no doubt that the shifting economic climate is having an effect on the rental market, with tenants having increasingly complex needs. However, these cases of dissatisfaction are a minority in a system that is working well for the overwhelming majority,” Mr Collins said.

In fact, according to a recent study by the Bankwest Curtin Economic Centre, The Private Rental Sector in Australia: Public perceptions of quality and affordability, only five per cent of tenants would rate their relationship with their property manager as poor or terrible, compared with the 69 per cent who said their experience was good or excellent.

“The findings of the Bankwest Curtin Economic Centre study illustrate that overall the rental market is working well for the majority of tenants. It is important that any decision-making takes into consideration the sector in its entirety and is not a knee-jerk reaction to minority cases,” Mr Collins said.

“There is no doubt the recent property market surges in the Eastern States would have seen rentals in short supply, causing some of the anxieties felt by tenants. In WA, however, the market is very much in favour of tenants, with the median rent having remained at $350 per week since April 2017.

“Tenants are far less likely to experience inappropriate rent increases in the current WA market. Having basic repairs carried out should not result in a rent increase. These repairs should also be carried out in a timely manner.

“Major renovations, such as a new kitchen and bathroom, would likely warrant negotiation between both parties as the lease came up for renewal. In situations like these, an experienced property manager is needed to ensure both the owner and tenant know their rights and responsibilities to ensure the best possible outcome for both parties.”

Another key issue raised in the report was that Australian tenants had difficulty in securing long-term leases.

“While long-term rental leases remain uncommon, there is nothing legislated in the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) that prevents tenants from entering into long-term leases. In fact many landlords prefer a long-term tenant but it is the tenants who request shorter lease terms in their applications for a rental property. In order for long-term leases to become more common, this will require an attitude shift between both owners and tenants to create a new normal,” Mr Collins said.

The report surveyed 1,000 tenants across Australia and makes startling claims, such as 66 per cent of women over 55 would find a rent increase of 10 per cent very difficult or difficult to afford, putting them in a dangerous situation while renting.

The report also claims that people with disabilities are 2.5 times as likely to have issues with inspections as other tenants, and that 16 per cent of those with disabilities have been served a no-grounds eviction as compared to nine per cent of other Australians.

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