Tenants' rights are Human Rights - Let's Reform the Rental System
Tenants' rights are Human Rights - Let's Reform the Rental System
Why this petition matters
The era of COVID-19 has changed the face of our society, careers have been lost, lives changed, financial hardships and lives lost. For others, this environment is little more than the latest opportunity to extract money.
Current protections for those renting even during COVID-19 do not adequately protect the dignity of tenants.
Owners and agencies cannot be relied on to uphold the human rights and dignity of tenants.
We propose a new clause to be inserted into standard tenancy agreements.
Draft “Well being clause”:
1. The actions of lessors or agencies may not:
1. place their tenant/s at reasonable risk of homelessness;
2. disrupt the employment opportunities of the tenant/s;
3. impose unreasonable and/or avoidable moving costs on their tenant/s;
4. negatively impact on any carer responsibilities that a tenant may have; or
5. unreasonably disrupt the education of dependent children
1. Providing compensation to the tenant/s equal to four weeks’ rent for heightened risk of homelessness due to lessor actions;
2. Providing compensation to the tenant/s equal to two weeks’ rent for disruption of employment (or income) due to lessor actions;
3. Providing compensation to the tenant/s equal to two week’s rent for tenant/s reasonable moving costs;
4. Providing compensation to the tenant/s equal to four week’s rent if carer responsibilities, and/or, the education of dependent children, are unreasonably impacted by lessor actions.
ALL THESE RIGHTS CAN BE INCLUDED IN STANDARD TENANCY AGREEMENTS
ALL THESE RIGHTS CAN BE FURTHER SAFEGUARDED BY ANY NECESSARY HUMAN RIGHTS LEGISLATION
BACKGROUND OF THIS PETITION
My family had to move by 2 December * Myself, my wife/partner, our two children (12) and (10), my elderly mother for who we care
Without even a warning of this possibility, we received a notice to vacate our rental property shortly after leaving COVID-19 lock down. Being rendered homeless within one of Australia’s worst rental markets (during a pandemic), became a real possibility.
This placed the welfare of our family at risk.
We could not afford accommodation, movers, and storage for our belongings if we failed to secure a lease. If we did secure a new lease, and moving dates did not align, we would also have to factor in a new bond and two weeks rent. We had to give up a property with a move in date of 10 December for precisely this reason.
This was the only agency property (out of dozens for which we applied) in which we were successful.
Our young children (12 and 10) would have had to be pulled from school (disrupting their education) and my elderly mother (who is suffering from cognitive decline) might have to had go into either temporary or permanent care. With a new medical assessment of her condition she would be provided a home and respite care package, but without a family home, she could only have gone into hastily arranged emergency care. Current arrangements mean owners/agencies need not consider the consequences for tenants.
The local agency was fully informed of our struggles and the looming threat of homeless. It was only luck that saw us secure a private rental, and kindness of my mother’s older sister who looked after her near Sydney for the last period of our vacating.
My family has been devastated by this experience.
The move took 3 days, and we made every reasonable effort to clean and prepare the property for final inspection. In the time that we lived in this property, we paid somewhere between $80000 to 90000 in rent. We were good and reliable tenants.
We were unable to attend the final inspection (which took place in a Thursday). We indicated by phone or email etc. we were available to redo anything at the property if that was required.
We were told by text message on the day of the final inspection (the 2nd of December) we would be informed about any issues to remedy.
We did not receive any text message, phone call, or email, listing any areas to be remedied.
We received the final inspection report at 10:45pm 6 December by email after the owner had already moved back in!
The agency informed us (in the same email) they would be arranging for professional services to attend the property.
Denied procedural fairness and natural justice to remedy issues, and without being provided one quote or invoice, we offered the following amounts to the agency/owner voluntarily - $300, $380 and $500.
We did so because we wanted the remainder of the bond expedited so we could have the remainder for Christmas and for our children.
After we moved from the property, the agency/owners indicated their intentions to claim our entire bond ($2400)
After disputed this, were we contacted by the agency.
They offered to resolve the matter by taking 50% of our bond!
In the absence of a relative looking after my mother for the final week of our moving, and the luck of securing a private rental.......
.......the owner/agency actions (in relation to the bond) would have been made against a family made homeless prior to Christmas.
We were not provided invoices in relation to these matters until we received an email at 1am 20th December 2021.
Our lease ended on 2 December 2021!
One of these invoices was dated 4 December (when we were available to remedy any cleaning issues), the other was dated 14 December (gardening) - twelve days after our lease ended (2nd) and eight days after the owners moved back in (6th).
The 1am email also outlined an itemized list of work with hours and estimated costs that came to the grand total of $3400! Apart from professional cleaning and gardening, there were no other invoices, no indication that the work had been carried out, or if it had, by whom.
The 1am email informed us that should we reject the 50/50 split of the disputed bond, the owner was entitled to claim the $3400 - that is 1000 more than the bond itself.
We sought assistance from Legal Aid and made one final offer to the owners ($750) on 23 December 2021.
We did so to expedite the bond process so that we could get access to these much needed monies for Christmas/New Year.
Without so much as an acknowledgement of this offer (23rd December), we heard nothing until 7th January.
On 7 January 2022, we received a Bond form from the agency accepting our generous offer $750.
There was no personal written text in the email, just the bond form!
We faced actual homelessness, potential fragmentation of our family, a greatly diminished ability to provide carer responsibilities for my mother and our children, potential disruption to our children's education, and the choice of having to sell or store all of our belongings.
When these facts were outlined to the agency during a phone call, the response was instructive. The agency representative calmly said, 'How is that our problem' OR 'How is that our issue' (words to this effect).
We made every reasonable effort to find a property, pack and clean the house, and be out of the rental property by 2 December.
It was entirely foreseeable to all that having to move at this time (during COVID-19) and in the Canberra rental market, this could cause hardship.
A request to have the rent lowered during the final vacating period, was rejected.
Our savings have been completely decimated. We have at points, gone to almost quite literally nothing.
We have been stunned by the care and support of friends and family who have helped us through.
We support the right of any person to rent out a property they own, we support the right of an owner to legitimately return to live in their property.
However, ownership rights need to take into consideration the well being of tenants. There must be a balance which refuses to allow property rights to crush the dignity, opportunities and family responsibilities of tenants.
The age of COVID-19 demonstrates the need for the 'well being clause'.
If owners and agencies are only too willing to profit from the tightest rental markets, and the impacts of COVID-19 on the vulnerable, they will never willingly prioritize the well being of any tenant.
...They have to be made to do this.
We seek your support on this petition.
- Katy GallagherShadow Minister for Finance and Public Service
- Andrew BarrChief Minister of Australian Capital Territory
- Shane RattenburyAttorney General Australian Capital Territory