WA investors to sell up if tenancy laws change

More than half of Western Australian property investors would consider selling their rental properties should significant changes be made to the state’s tenancy laws.

A survey of more than 7000 investors from Synergies Economic Consulting revealed 61 per cent would sell their properties if proposed changes to Western Australia’s residential tenancy laws were adopted, putting further pressure on the state’s already struggling rental market.

The survey found property owners were particularly concerned about proposed changes that would limit their ability to evict tenants unless they were either selling the property or looking to move in.

As well as the proposal to remove the requirement of a tenant to seek the consent of the property owner to make modifications to the property.

Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA) President Damian Collins said the findings were deeply concerning and highlighted tenants and owners would be worse off if the proposals were legislated.

“Although well intended, these proposals would make renting more difficult and expensive for tenants, while simultaneously stripping investors of their rights and pushing up property management fees,” Mr Collins said.

“There are fewer than 2500 properties currently available for rent in Perth and vacancy rates across the state are at or near record lows. 

“Now is not the time to introduce reforms that would further discourage investors from buying in WA.”

The Synergies report found that changes to WA tenancy law could have numerous costs on the wider economy and lead to a range of unintended consequences for the state’s rental market.

Among the most notable consequences, the report found WA tenants would pay up to $105 million extra in increased rents each year, while an estimated $142.5 million in higher property management costs would be incurred annually across the rental sector.

Mr Collins said any proposed changes that disincentivised investment wouldn’t be in the best interest of the state.

“Mum and dad investors with one or two properties account for more than 90 per cent of all rental owners,” Mr Collins said.

“Removing an owner’s right to their property – a property they are using to secure their future, will deter people from investing in WA and put extra pressure on the WA Government – and by extension taxpayers – to supply that housing.”

The Synergies report found owners and tenants of low-priced properties would be disproportionately affected by the proposed reforms, with low-income tenants expected to face higher rents and experience the greatest difficulty securing housing.

It is estimated up to $1.3 billion in government funding would be required by the social housing sector to meet the additional demand of the rental market due to reduced investment in the market.

“WA’s residential tenancy laws are working well for the vast majority of the more than 222,000 rentals currently leased across the state, yet these proposals seek to alter the tenant-owner relationship for all,” Mr Collins said.

“We need to encourage investment in WA and focus on addressing the rental shortage. Introducing these proposed reforms will make a bad situation worse and adversely affect the most vulnerable members of our community.

“We have briefed the WA Government on the report and are pleased they are taking a thoughtful approach to the proposals. We will continue to work with the government to ensure the state’s tenancy laws remain fair for all parties.”

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a freelance journalist specialising in finance and real estate.