There is a growing discussion in Brisbane headed by the Green’s Jono Sri around discussion and activism on renter’s issues. A few years ago before he was elected councillor, he started a group called Brisbane Renter’s Alliance to discuss issues like dodgy landlords/real estate agentcies, excessive inspections etc. One idea to make change was the idea of a ‘rental strike’ where thousands of renters across Brisbane paid their rent late one fortnight to try and make pressure for change.
One policy idea being discussed are the right to remain or ‘renter’s tenure’ seen in some European countries (Germany, Sweden) where a rental lease can only be discontinued/terminated with just cause such as rental agreement breach, arrears or the owner or their family wanting to take up residence.
The other main policy idea is rent controls, and the current discussion is about what they would be tied to. Some discussed options are tieing the rate to Centrelink payments or the average income of renting demographics, or limiting yearly rental raises to CPI/minimum wage increases.
Where this ties to Pirate values: the right to privacy is tied to the right to safety, or in other words the right to an affordable home where you feel safe. It’s also a civil liberty for everyone to have access to a home they can consider ‘their own.’ There are also social implications of enabling more permanent housing arrangements as this will encourage stronger and more close knit communities, creating more social connectivity and enabling things like more effective issue campaigning or community projects.
Be wary: abuse cuts both ways!
I am leery of the idea of the ‘rental strike’ if only on the basis this puts the protesters at risk of violating the very agreements they wish to have enforced. Another way surely exists?
Now a black-list of dodgy landlords/real estate agencies, excessive inspections etc. I fully support.
A general renter’s strike was just one idea suggested as a way to push for change in the rental industry. There are other methods of advocacy, and we’re most interested where this discussion touches on our rights and liberties. Eg in Queensland, owners are allowed to arrange inspections every 3 months with 7 days notice; it’s definitely stressful to know your suitability to live in your own home is being assessed so regularly whether you are a conscientious tenant or not!
Is there a possibility to push for improved changes to rental oversight bureaucracy?
All bonds should be paid direct to the government, rather than relying on landlords submitting their bond?
Centralised submission of the state of the house and any reports, to establish a change of events that is useable by court. (e.g. Via an app. This can be integrated if api is exposed to stuff like airbnb or cubbi, etc…).
In Queensland, bonds have to be paid to the Residential Tenancy Authority (part of the state Department of Housing). The release process is simply whoever puts a claim in first, then the other party can choose to either contest it or simply let it go. One of the improvements Tenants Queensland is seeking is to mean the bond will return to the tenants by default unless the owner or agent contests the release with evidence.
Data recording for the house condition is used quite heavily in the process here in Queensland. Real Estate agents have recently (last 1-2 years) been recording video walkthroughs for the owners in addition to taking photos on every inspection. Tenants are encouraged to take photos of the original condition of the house when they move in so they know and have evidence of the standard they are required to return the house to when they vacate.
Jono Sri described that quite cleverly as being as intrusive as possible to show the owner how seriously they take their duty of care. What’s being trampled in the process are the rights to privacy and safety for the renter.
So is Queensland rental oversight model something that should be replicated in other states in whole or partially?
We have a strong advocacy body in Tenants Queensland who have made gains for us since the 80s which some states don’t have. It would be good at a national level to start advocating for some of those policies, as well as stronger protection for renters overall.
Well is it possible to do an interparty advocacy? I’m sure there is other parties that care about rental rights that would do well to trade ideas with. Basically create a working group focusing only on rental rights with multiple other parties.
This group could perhaps then investigate what works in various states.
The key point is that there is no requirement to have the same unified policy, but getting policies in sync is encouraged.
I’m participating in the Renter’s Alliance up here, which has a large portion of Greens activists. The Liberal Democrats are likely to support it as well. I’m doing a lot of networking between community groups so I try to cross pollinate and this is a key issue for a lot of people in south east Queensland.
It would be interesting to link up with renter’s rights groups in other states so we can compare systems and maybe work towards an interstate framework. I wouldn’t know where to start, and my focus is local issues anyway.