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Power Struggles: Winter Renter Researchers 2023

Through the winter of 2023, Better Renting worked with 59 renters to track temperatures in their homes and what it meant for them. We found unhealthy low temperatures in a large number of homes in the sample. Renters' experiences were characterised by a sense of powerlessness, forcing them to put up with substandard homes and negligent landlords, due to a fear of eviction, a rent increase, and potential homelessness. 

You can download the report here in PDF format.

An earlier snapshot report specifically about South Australia is available here

If you'd like to share this report with your state MP, that would be great! You can use this handy tool.

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Joint Statement Gains Widespread Support Across South Australia

The joint statement calling for further rental reforms in South Australia has garnered significant support. Initially backed by 5 organisations, the statement now has the endorsement of 43 organisations across the state. 

The statement outlines key areas for action:

  • Abolishing no-cause evictions
  • Limiting rent increases to CPI
  • Introducing minimum energy efficiency standards
  • Ensuring landlords cannot unreasonably refuse a pet

The growing number of signatories reflects the broad consensus on the need for these reforms. We encourage you to read the full statement and to email it to your MP today.

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Response to NSW consultation paper on rental laws

NSW recently sought submissions in response to a consultation paper on improving rental laws. Our submission provided feedback on removing 'no grounds' terminations, making it easier for renters to have pets, protecting renters' privacy, the issue of excessive rent increases, and the need for minimum energy efficiency standards for rental homes. The submission is available for download here.

Submission to Senate Inquiry on the worsening rental crisis in Australia

In June 2023 the Australian Senate referred an inquiry into the worsening rental crisis in Australia to the Community Affairs References Committee. Better Renting made a submission to this inquiry, calling for action to: limit rent increases, give tenants more control over how their tenancies end, and establish minimum energy efficiency standards for rental homes. You can download our submission here.

Job opening: Comms Officer

We're looking for a Communications Officer to help build the Better Renting brand and community reach. While you’ll primarily support our communications work around energy justice for renters, including the 'Healthy Homes for Renters' campaign for minimum energy efficiency standards, you’ll also contribute to strengthening traditional media and digital engagement for Better Renting more generally.

In essence, we've created this role because we want to expand the comms capacity across the organisation. There is potential for us to do more with email and social media, but we need more staff capacity (and skills!) to help make this happen. There's so much powerful stuff we hear from renters, and we want to do more to get those stories out there. Ultimately, of course, 'exposure' isn't our end goal: we want to be turning this into power, and turning that into outcomes. Due to lots of incoming media requests we also want someone who can help field those, and someone who can be more pro-active about pitching out stories, but we do also have quite good skills in this area, and so this is a little less crucial. 

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SA snapshot for Winter Renter Researchers 2023

What are renters in South Australia experiencing this winter?

This winter we are working with around 60 renters across Australia to track winter temperatures in their homes and understand their experiences of winter cold. This includes 11 particiants in South Australia. 

We will publish the full findings from this citizen science study in September. In the meanwhile, this is an interim snapshot focusing on experiences document so far in SA.

You can download the brief report here, or read it below.

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Better Renting submission to the inquiry into the rental and housing affordability crisis in Victoria

In early July Better Renting made a submission to the Inquiry into the rental and housing affordability crisis in Victoria. We called on the Victorian Government to:

  • abolish unfair evictions at the end of the first fixed-term of a tenancy,
  • implement limits on rent increases, &
  • expand minimum energy efficiency standards for rentals.
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Joint statement on rental law reform in SA

Better Renting and South Australian community sector organisations have co-authored a joint statement  calling for fair rental laws in South Australia. The statement emphasises the urgent need to update rental laws to ensure affordable, safe, and secure housing for renters. With an increasing number of renters facing a rental affordability and availability crisis, the letter highlights the critical opportunity to enact lasting and positive changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1995. The reforms proposed in the statement aim to abolish no-cause evictions, limit rent increases to CPI, introduce minimum energy efficiency standards, and prevent landlords from unreasonably refusing pets. It's a crucial call for the state government to prioritise fair renting in South Australia.

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Better Renting Impact Report 2021-2022

In 2023 we celebrate five years since Better Renting started. As part of this, we're proud to share an Impact Report on 2021-2022, covering the last two years of operation. Through this time we've seen continued progress on rental reform and a national conversation around housing growing in ambition and urgency. 

You can download a PDF copy of the report here. Our 2018-2020 report is available here.

What does the data tell us about landlord wealth?

The latest ATO taxation statistics for 2020-21 provide an objective view on the position of those taxpayers with an interest in a rental property, with data going back to 1999-2000. We analysed the data to better understand the position of landlords and how this has changed over time. A brief paper on our findings is available here.

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The cost of inefficient rental housing in South Australia

This week Better Renting is presenting at the Essential Services conference being put on by SACOSS. We will be speaking about who pays the cost of inefficient housing. As part of this, we have updated our Cost of Complacency analysis. This report looked at the cost of inefficient rental housing in New South Wales; we have updated it to look at the South Australian context using up-to-date figures.

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Renter Researchers Report Summer 22-23

Through the summer of 22/23, Better Renting observed renters' experiences of heat in their homes. We recruited eighty ‘Renter Researchers’ from across Australia to install temperature tracking devices in their bedrooms. Unlike a mere thermometer, these devices record temperature at intervals, creating a detailed record of the temperature changes and patterns observed in rental homes. In addition, we obtained qualitative data from Researchers, through surveys and interviews, helping us to understand observed temperature patterns and gain an insight into the human impact of high indoor temperatures.

You can download the report here in PDF format and here in DOCX format.

You can find our work from summer 21/22 here.

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The Cost of Complacency

When a home is more energy-efficient, the occupants benefit from free energy: instead of occupants having to pay to heat their home, the structure of the dwelling itself provides greater thermal comfort. Conversely, people in inefficient homes are being denied this benefit. In this paper we attempt to quantify the dollar value of this benefit to highlight what renters in inefficient homes in NSW are missing out on. We estimate that NSW has over 700,000 rental homes with poor energy efficiency, and that improving the efficiency of these properties would achieve benefits worth $1.199 billion, or $1683 per affected household. As energy prices continue to rise, the value of this benefit becomes greater. This represents a huge untapped opportunity to address cost of living impacts on vulnerable households.

You can download the report here in pdf format.

Rent Control: San Francisco

In part three of the rent control series, we’ll be taking a look at how San Francisco regulates rents with a view to informing rental policy reform in Australia. 

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Rent Control: Eye on Ireland

We’ve previously discussed the various rent control schemes in place across Australian jurisdictions. In this next series, we will take a look at how some international jurisdictions have implemented rent control. When we broaden our horizons it helps us to understand that there are many paths towards protecting the dignity and security of renters in this country.

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Submission on SA Rental Reform

Better Renting made a submission to SA's Consumer and Business Services in response to their consultation on "Modernising SA's renting laws".

Our submission is available here in pdf format

Rent regulation around Australia

This is the first post in a new series looking at rent control. In this post we will look at rent control in Australia. We will give an overview of what rent regulation is, what currently exists in each jurisdiction, and our reflections on what is needed. 

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Ceiling insulation standards in the ACT

Next year the ACT government will begin implementing a minimum ceiling insulation standard for rental homes. We know that renters are suffering due to rental rate increases and cost of living pressures, including hugely inflated energy prices. Renters live in homes that are generally of a lower standard than owner-occupiers and our research shows that renters are vulnerable to the health effects of an excessively hot or cold property. At the same time, landlords have little incentive to improve the energy efficiency of a rental home, as they don’t pay the bills. Up to 40% of the heat in a home is lost through the roof, so it makes sense that the government has decided to focus first on ceiling insulation by introducing minimum ceiling insulation requirements for rental homes beginning on 1 April 2023.

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Victorian election rental policy assessment

With the Victorian state election coming up on 26 November 2022, we wrote to representatives from Labor, the Liberals and the Greens to ask their position on a range of key rental issues:

  • ending no cause terminations,
  • tackling excessive rent increases, and
  • expanding energy efficiency minimum standards.

For each question we provided some context about why this issue matters and the response that Better Renting would want to see. We have reproduced this below, along with responses from the relevant party spokespeople. 

We received quite different responses, and we have not scored them or evaluated them against one another. However, we hope that by obtaining and presenting this information we can help you to take the responses into account as election day draws nearer.

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From gas to electricity for rental households

I remember going to inspect rentals and being stoked to find a gas cooktop in the kitchen. Like many of us, I've had bad experiences of old electric stovetops that take an age to heat up and cool down. It's also sometimes unclear when they are even on, and I've burnt many a teatowel this way. Gas is what I (and my housemates, unhappy about burnt teatowels) wanted. 

I never want to see one of these again.

But in coming years, this isn't going to be so true. Gas is a fossil fuel and we need to stop burning it in our homes (it's also often more expensive, and it causes indoor air pollution which causes asthma). So it's becoming much more common for homes to be all-electric. Reverse-cycle AC is replacing gas heaters and gas stoves are being replaced by electric induction stoves which, thank heavens, do not have the many disadvantages of old-school electric cookers.

This is an exciting opportunity for people renting. No gas connection fees! Less childhood asthma! Being able to cool your home in summer! But there are also risks. In this little post I want to outline some risks and how Better Renting is thinking about this issue.

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Is this termination notice valid? (ACT)

This fact sheet will deal with the requirements for a termination notice to be valid under ACT tenancy law. Both tenants and landlords can issue termination notices, but this overview focuses on those issued by landlords. Further, this fact sheet will not deal with terminations that are based on a breach of the agreement by either tenants or landlords. Our focus is on ‘no fault’ terminations. You can read more about how this category of termination functions around Australia here.

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Is this rent increase notice valid? (ACT)

A notice is basically a formal communication relating to the tenancy agreement. A landlord may give you notice for a whole number of things, such as a notice to conduct an inspection. This fact sheet will deal with the specific requirements of a notice to increase the rent in the ACT. This information only applies if you are in a periodic tenancy agreement and not if you are starting or renewing a fixed term lease. 

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Cold and costly: Renter Researchers' experiences of Winter 22

From June 13 to July 31 2022, Better Renting tracked temperature and humidity in 70+ rental homes around Australia. Our findings are summarised in our report Cold and costly: Renter Researchers' experiences of Winter 22.

You can download the report in pdf or docx format. The PDF is also embedded below.

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How to get your bond back in the ACT

This fact sheet will clarify the idea of "fair wear and tear" and help you to get your bond back. Many tenants can feel anxious near the end of your lease because your landlord may try to make a claim on your bond. Actually, the law in the ACT says that certain damage is okay - as long as it is "fair wear and tear", and your landlord cannot make a bond claim for this sort of damage. But the legislation is not super helpful when trying to figure out what this really means! This is where we come in.

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an image with someone's experience of a cold rental home

How do you sleep at night?

With rental homes so cold, it's a reasonable question. We're joining with Healthy Homes for Renters to support people who rent to share our stories of what we have to do to cope with our crappy cold homes. 

You can learn more about the project and share your own story on the Healthy Homes for Renters website: https://www.healthyhomes.org.au/howdoyousleepatnight

Enough lies from the real estate lobby

It seems like every time anyone proposes doing anything to make things the slightest bit for renters, the real estate lobby comes out opposing the proposal — not because it would reduce landlord profits, no, but because it would lead to higher rents. For example:

"So, every time you take away a right that a property owner has...well, then all that will simply mean is fewer investors in the market and rents are going to go up, it's simple maths."

This is an absurd argument. In this post we'll try to take it down once and for all. In turn, we'll discuss:

  • Why the fear-mongering about high rents is disguised self-interest,
  • Why 'cost pass through' is not a real threat,
  • The evidence that rental reform doesn't discourage investment, &
  • The evidence that divestment won't reduce housing supply.
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Some notes on the 2016 Census

We are looking forward to the release of the 2021 Census results, which should be happening next week. In anticipation of those results, we thought we'd take a bit of a look at some data from the most recent census. When the latest census data comes out, it will be interesting to see what changes have happened. Key areas we are interested in are mobility in rental households, and changes in household composition.

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Hot homes: Renter Researchers' experiences of summer 21-22

Through the summer of 21/22, Better Renting observed renters' experiences of heat in their homes. We recruited fifty ‘Renter Researchers’ from across Australia to install temperature tracking devices in their bedrooms. Unlike a mere thermometer, these devices record temperature at intervals, creating a detailed record of the temperature changes and patterns observed in rental homes. In addition, we obtained qualitative data from Researchers, through surveys and interviews, helping us to understand observed temperature patterns and gain an insight into the human impact of high indoor temperatures.

You can download the report here in PDF format and here in DOCX format.

Submission on ACT minimum energy efficiency standards

The ACT Government is looking to implement minimum energy efficiency standards for rental properties. In November 2021 they published a Regulatory Impact Statement and Consultation paper (available here).

Better Renting made a submission to this process. The Better Renting submission is available here.

Submission on ACT rental reform

The ACT Government recently called for submissions regarding proposed changes to ACT tenancy laws, including ending no cause evictions.

Better Renting made a submission drawing on our experience and consultation with local renters. The submission is available here.

Better Renting response to ACT Consultation Paper

Today the ACT Government has published a RIS and a Consultation Paper on Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards for rental properties. The government considered a few approaches to specifying minimum standards, and the paper proposes an insulation standard such that rental homes with less than R2 ceiling insulation are required to install or upgrade to a minimum of R5.

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Who should pay for a forced move?

When a landlord kicks a tenant out even though the tenant is doing nothing wrong, who should bear the costs of the move?

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Home is where the heart is: Housing and heart health

There's plenty of evidence that the physical state of housing has implications for physical and mental health: if your home is too cold in winter, or is falling apart around you, it's bad for your health. But, perhaps surprisingly, recent research is finding linkages between health and other aspects of housing — such as affordability

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The sick season: cold weather and mortality in South Australia

Does South Australia have a pattern of increased monthly mortality during colder weather? We analysed monthly death statistics and average monthly temperature data and observed that the months July to October show an above average number of monthly deaths. This pattern is typical of countries with low-quality housing stock that offers inadequate protection during cooler months. Improving household energy efficiency would likely reduce excess winter deaths.

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Renting with pets in Queensland

We hear from lots of people interested in renting with pets. And it's no surprise: most Australian households have pets, and with more people renting long-term, more of us want the opportunity to have pets in a rental home.

If you rent in Queensland, here are answers to some common questions about renting with pets.

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Discussing unhealthy mould with ABC Canberra

We spoke with ABC Canberra about the issue of mould in rental properties.

Cold, mould, and damp are present in a lot of Australian homes, and they can have serious health effects. 

These issues can be addressed through minimum standards for rental properties, including ventilation, and stronger regulation.

If you want to see healthier, decent rental homes, please sign our campaign petition for Healthy Homes for Renters.

The Path of Lease Resistance

The ACT is the only jurisdiction in Australia that allows landlords to contract out of their legal obligations, according to a new report out today from tenant advocacy group Better Renting.

The report, The Path of Lease Resistance, highlights that ACT law allows landlords to add terms to a lease even if the terms are inconsistent with the standard terms of a tenancy. It finds that this mechanism is poorly understood and often abused, which means that some renters miss out on legal protections. In one example in the report, an additional term might specify that a tenant is responsible for replacing broken glass, even where this would otherwise be the lessor’s responsibility.

You can download the report here in pdf format.

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Better Renting Impact Report 2018-2020

Better Renting was officially registered on 5 April 2018. Over the last three years, we're proud to have worked with renters to take a stand on the issues that affect us and contribute to changing the conversation and the laws around renting, across Australia. Our 2018-2020 Impact Report commemorates and celebrates everything our community has achieved over this time.

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Better Renting on ABC Tasmania

On Thursday 19 March 2021, Better Renting Executive Director Joel Dignam spoke with ABC Tasmania to refute false arguments against rental reform.

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'Til debt do us part: a fair solution to prevent Covid evictions

As eviction moratoriums are lifted across Australia, hundreds of thousands of renters could lose their homes in a wave of ‘Covid evictions’.

Covid-19 caused a very uneven recession. Low-income households and people in insecure work faced worse impacts than others. In addition, they had less financial resilience to begin with. Many of these people rent their homes.

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Report: "Pet peeves: how landlords are denying renters the benefits of pets"

As the numbers of renters in Australia has grown, so too has the push for changes to rental laws, including around pets. This report considers the current situation for renters in Australia, reviewing data on the situation facing renters with or without pets, and the possible implications for renters and lessors. We find that 44% of renter households have pets but only 8% of SA rental properties explicitly welcome pets. In addition, we identify significant variation across different agencies, suggesting that landlord preferences are not a determining factor.

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Out of the woods? How the QLD Government failed renters during Covid-19

The Queensland (QLD) Government recently decided to end protections that it had provided to renters for Covid-19. This is a bold move considering that the pandemic and its fallout are far from over. As the threat of Covid-19 emerged, community organisations from across Australia called for urgent action from Australian governments to protect renters, proposing five measures for state and territory governments to implement. This report evaluates the QLD Government’s pandemic response against those measures, and it considers what the future holds for Queensland renters.

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Let down: how has the ACT Government supported renters during COVDI-19?

A recent national statement by community organisations from across Australia called for urgent action from Australian governments to protect renters during this crisis, proposing five measures for state and territory governments to implement. This report evaluates the ACT Government response to the COVID-19 pandemic against those measures. Despite some positive steps, the ACT Government is failing to provide renters with secure homes during a worldwide pandemic in which housing is a primary defence against the spread of infection.

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Rent due: renting and stress during COVID-19

In May-June 2020, Better Renting surveyed almost 1000 renters across Australia to ask about their experiences of renting during COVID-19.

  • Over three in five renters (63%) reported losing household income due to the coronavirus crisis.
  • Of renters who lost income, only one in two (50%) asked for a rent reduction.
  • Of renters who lost income, less than one in ten (9%) got a satisfactory rent reduction.
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Blower Door Home Visit

Jon is an architecture student who rents in Canberra. As part of ‘Home Truths’, Better Renting worked with Jon and his housemates to measure the air leakage of his home and implement quick, cheap, and easy improvements. In this post, Jon reflects on the experience.

I’m a renter in a period of rising electricity costs and increased awareness of the value of living sustainably. So it’s often frustrating to know that it’s my landlord who controls the factors that influence how much heating or cooling my home needs.

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Where did things stand before coronavirus?

By Joel Dignam, Executive Director, Better Renting.

Coronavirus has changed everything for renters and landlords. In a matter of weeks, a huge number of people have lost work. Renters were particularly affected, as they were more likely to be in insecure employment. Property investors had to face the possibility that their reliable income stream, derived from the waged labour of renters, might be drying up. 

In a number of blog posts, I hope to consider the immediate government response but also what we need to see in the medium and longer-term. But as context, this post is a foreword of sorts, considering where renters and the property market stood before the onset of coronavirus.

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Stop evictions to limit coronavirus: Better Renting

Better Renting is calling on state and territory governments to protect public health and stop evictions during the COVID19 pandemic.

Better Renting Executive Director, Joel Dignam, said that the unprecedented situation meant new measures were needed to help renters keep their homes.

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Report: "Home-Baked: Housing, Heat, and Health"

Renters are four times more likely than homeowners to struggle with the summer heat, according to a new report from tenant organisation Better Renting.

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Submission: Share House Reform in ACT

The ACT Government recently proposed a Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2019 (No 2) including changes to occupancy agreements and share housing. 

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Submission: Queensland Better Renting Futures

Better Renting made a submission regarding Queensland's proposed updates to rental legislation.

The submission covered:

  • Minimum housing standards,
  • Renting with pets,
  • Ending tenancies fairly, 
  • Minor modifications, and
  • Domestic and family violence.

You can download the submission in pdf or word document format.