Why are tenancy rights so poor in Australia?

Angus Kidman 5 January 2017 NEWS

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Renters get a raw deal by international standards.

An image doing the rounds on Twitter highlights how Australians get a pretty rough deal as tenants compared to other countries in the world. In Australia, for instance, it's rare to score a lease longer than 12 months, you can generally be booted out within 30 days, you usually can't have pets and you're highly restricted in any decoration or structural changes you can make. Compare that to France, where the notice period is usually 3 months; Germany, where having pets is allowed; or the Netherlands, where leases are generally assumed to be ongoing.

Renting isn't yet the dominant model in Australia. According to ABS figures, two-thirds of us are in our own home (or paying off a mortgage). However, with housing affordability remaining an ongoing issue and the number of first home buyers shrinking, renting is becoming more common, not less, and that means we should be thinking about ensuring that tenants get a fair deal.

One complicating factor is that rules regarding tenancies are set at state level, which means there are variations in the rules that apply. That isn't necessarily the case elsewhere, where national rules might apply. Even so, it shouldn't be impossible to come up with a system that respects the rights of both tenants and landlords, rather than, as is arguably the case right now, skewing heavily in favour of the landlord.

Another challenge is that in any area with high demand, tenants may be reluctant to try and enforce even those rights. Who wants to kick up a stink with the owner when they know that the place could be filled again in a heartbeat? We can't do much about that kind of reluctance, but we could definitely revisit the topic of just what constitutes a reasonable balance. Why should having a cat be a deal-breaker?

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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