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Stop Risking Tenants' Lives

This petition had 100 supporters

In twenty-five years as a tenant, my safety has been jeopardised time and time again by landlord/agents who refuse to maintain rental properties in good repair.  Landlords have risked my life by way of gas leaks; dangerous, illegal electrical wiring and gasfitting; faulty appliances; unsafe brick fences; flooding, and falling concrete sheets.  I have been subjected to illegal eviction and vengeful rent increases for insisting on repairs, but have never succeeded in seeing a landlord/agent penalised for breaking the law, though it hasn’t been for the want of trying.

There’s good reason why landlord/agents risk tenants’ lives: they get away with it.  While it remains cheaper for landlords to pay a nominal fine for illegally evicting a tenant rather than undertake repairs to secure their safety, then that’s what landlords will do.

Tenants must be bullet-proof.  That would explain why the law regards our safety as less important than workers or drivers.

While employers who recklessly endanger employees may be fined three million dollars, landlord/agents who knowingly endanger tenants escape prosecution or penalty.  We have roadworthy certificates for cars, but no national minimum standard for rental homes.  Employers who bully, threaten or coerce workers for enforcing their rights face penalties of a half a million dollars, while landlord/agents freely engage in anti-competitive conduct, maintaining a market for shoddy or dangerous rental homes by evicting or threatening to blacklist tenants who stand up to them.

Landlord/agents who endanger or bully tenants must be subjected to the same meaningfully punitive fines as bullying or coercive employers.

Though notorious for misconduct, the real estate business escapes the same regulation or accountability as telcos, the postal service or energy retailers.

Because we have no real estate industry ombudsman, consumers have more recourse to complain about mobile phone caps or misbehaving energy retailers than tenants have to report the landlord/agent who wilfully jeopardises their safety. 

Tenants pursuing their rights through the current tribunal system often stand to lose more than they gain.  Those who cannot afford to forfeit wages in pursuit of hot water, cooking facilities or repairs necessary to their safety have little choice but to go without.  Landlords must pay a bond, just as tenants do, so that tenants are guaranteed the funds for repairs, just as landlords are.

With fewer and fewer Australians able to afford their own homes, it’s vital that our rental homes are safe and liveable, because for many of us, these will be the only homes we ever know.  Because we need to keep a roof over our heads, the law must reflect that tenants are vulnerable to exploitation by landlord/agents in the same way that employees are vulnerable to exploitation by employers.  We must enjoy the same protections.


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Susan Bennett (Tenants Are Customers) needs your help with “State Governments: Stop Risking Tenants' Lives”. Join Susan and 99 supporters today.