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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.

Submission: Victorian Rental Regulations

Better Renting made a submission regarding Victoria's proposed Residential Tenancies Regulations 2020.

The submission responded primarily to minimum standards for rental housing, and also proposed prescribed questions in the application process.

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

Queensland does the minimum on rental standards

Update November 2023: Although this post is now four years old, it's still unfortunately the case that there are no minimum energy efficiency standards for rentals in Queensland.

When it comes to standards for rental properties, it safe to say that the Queensland Government proposes to do the minimum. Before we get into the detail of what is proposed and what is lacking, let’s pause and understand why minimum standards matter.

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Queensland pet reforms leave renters at risk

Ah, pets! That most heartfelt of topics for both renters and landlords alike. For renters, reform would make it easier to feel at home, to stay healthy, and to keep beloved pets as pet of the family. For some landlords, reform would make it harder to arbitrarily exploit their privileged position to impose their prejudices on the less fortunate.

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Queensland the real MVP on unfair evictions

Currently, unfair evictions keep many renters on edge. All over Australia, people who rent worry about requesting repairs or exercising their rights because they are worried about getting a notice in the mail saying that they’re going to have to move out - with no justification provided.

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Pet Hates: Lessor Pet Sentiment and the 'Agent Effect'

People who rent and own pets must overcome hurdles to securing housing. Many properties prohibit pets, and pet owners may be at a competitive disadvantage even when applying for properties that putatively accept pets. With new rental laws around pet ownership coming into effect in the ACT, we analysed the sentiment towards pet ownership from twelve months of rental advertisements from the territory. Our analysis demonstrates the opacity of the rental market for 
people who rent with pets, as well as a notable ‘agent effect’, suggesting that anti-pet positions in rental advertisements do not necessarily reflect lessor preferences.

You can download the full report here.

Media release: Better Renting welcomes ACT Government commitment to minimum energy performance requirements for rental properties

Renter organisation Better Renting has welcomed the new ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-25, released today, which includes a commitment to minimum energy performance requirements for rental properties.

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Kat's Story Part 2: "I'm almost in pain from the cold all the time."

This is Kat's Story Part 2. Click here to read Kat's Story Part 1: "This is the coldest house I’ve ever lived in."

I ask Kat what it's been like to live here in winter. She describes a life organised around efforts to keep warm.

"I'm almost in pain from the cold all the time."

"When my hands are really cold, I can't turn things on. I'm always worried I might cut myself or something because I lose a bit of feeling in my hands when it’s that cold."

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Kat's Story Part 1: "This is the coldest house I’ve ever lived in."

Story and illustration by Anna Dennis, Home Truths Coordinator.

Sitting with me in front of two electric heaters, Kat tells me, "I’m cold all the time."

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Kat's Story Part 3: her landlord might get annoyed

This is Kat's Story Part 3. Click here to read Part 1, or Part 2.

Kat wonders whether it would even be legal to expect people to live like this in other parts of the world. In Europe, she says, "it would be unbelievable to have a house like this without double or even triple glazing, even in old buildings. You have rights."

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Kat's Story Part 4: making a house a home

This is Kat's Story Part 4. Click here to read Part 1, Part 2,or Part 3.

I catch up with Kat a couple of weeks later. After my visit, she finished all the projects we started and used all the DIY materials I left her with. She even went out and bought more materials from Bunnings to make sure all the gaps and draughts in her house were sealed up.

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Submission to South Australia Housing Strategy

In our submission to the Housing and Homelessness Strategy for South Australia we argued for improvements to rental conditions in order to improve housing outcomes for people who rent their homes. 

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

Submission re: Low Energy Existing Homes

Better Renting made a submission to the Department of Environment and Energy regarding their draft "Report for achieving low energy existing homes".

Our submission can be downloaded in pdf or docx format.

Unsafe as Houses: Cold-housing deaths in the ACT

This report estimates the annual number of cold-related deaths in the ACT caused by low-quality housing. By comparing temperature data with statistics on monthly deaths for the period 2009-17, we estimate annual cold-related mortality at 140 deaths, based on current population. Conservatively, we attribute 30% of these deaths to cold housing, indicating that 42 cold weather deaths are linked to cold housing in particular. The people most affected are low-income renters aged 65 and above.

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Baby it’s Cold Inside: Energy Efficiency Ratings in the ACT

Rental properties are almost ten times more likely than properties for sale to have the minimum energy efficiency rating, according to a new report from advocacy organisation Better Renting.

The report reviewed over 19,000 real estate advertisements and found that over two in five rental property energy efficiency ratings were 0, compared to less than one in twenty ratings for properties for sale. The report builds upon a similar analysis conducted by Better Renting in April of 2018, which reviewed a smaller number of advertisements.

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Winter Energy Efficiency Guide for Renters

Through Home Truths, Better Renting has released an "Energy Efficiency Guide for Renters" We are launching this guide in draft form, in response to growing demand from a community of renters looking to improve their comfort and warmth at home this winter.

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Tenant Talks Report

Today Better Renting is launching our 'Tenant Talks' report, which uses renters' own words to highlight the challenges facing Canberra renters and the need for further changes to ACT rental laws.

The report is made up of quotes from Canberra renters commenting on the topics of stability, affordability, and liveability. Feedback from renters was recorded from a series of ‘Tenant Talks’ events held last year in renters’ homes, in a model adapted from the Victorian Women’s Trust.

The report includes what renters like about renting, such as “flexibility”, “community”, and “lifestyle”, while also discussing challenges facing renters. In the report, renters describe challenges with insecurity, expensive housing, and low-quality homes “like swiss cheese”, that make them sick in winter.

The report can be downloaded here.

Introducing: 'Home Truths'

People who rent deserve homes which are comfortable, healthy and affordable.

Everyone should easily be able to heat their homes in winter and cool them in summer. We all deserve a comfortable, safe haven to come home to at the end of the day.

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The Rub on Unfair Evictions

“Unfair evictions” are in the crosshairs all over Australia. The Victorian government has restricted them. NSW Labor has committed to banning them. In SA, ACT, and Queensland, there are moves to end the practice.

With this going on, it’s worth taking the time to understand what “unfair evictions” are and the other ways in which a tenancy can end. Lo and behold, this handy flowchart: your basic guide to how leases end in Australia.

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Response to Mark Parton MLA

Better Renting is a not-for-profit registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. All of our advocacy is done in pursuit of our aims, and we do not support any political party.

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House of 'Lords: Landlords and Tenants in the Legislative Assembly

When politicians make decisions, what experiences do they bring to bear? This report considers the experiences of ACT Members of the Legislative Assembly when it comes to tenure and property investment, contrasting Members with the broader ACT population. It finds that renters are underrepresented and that landlords are over-represented in the Legislative Assembly. This helps us to understand which perspectives are likely influencing decisions in the parliament.

The full report can be downloaded here. Findings are below in table form.

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"I'm OK Right Now": Angela's Story

Story and illustration by Gillian Schwab.

I call Angela at 11am on Tuesday morning. She's sharing a house with a woman and her adult son in Robina, Queensland. The son is in his room, and Angela is outside painting Christmas ornaments for her sister. They have to be exactly the right colour as her sister is very particular about these things, Angela says. She's immediately friendly and very likeable, and right away admits she's made some bad decisions. She says the past few years have been awful.

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A big year for renters

By Joel Dignam, Executive Director

As 2018 draws to a close, it's worth reflecting on what we've achieved and what's changing around Australia to help renters have stable, affordable, liveable homes. 

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ACT Bond Loans Scheme Now Even Better

Changes in the ACT mean it's now easier for renters to get a loan for their bond, helping people to secure a tenancy in the private rental sector.

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Submission for Queensland Open Doors to Rental Reform

Better Renting made a submission in late 2018 to the Queensland Goverment's consultation as part of its 'Open Doors to Renting Reform' process.

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

Rental reforms are a small positive step

Tenant organisation Better Renting has welcomed proposed changes to ACT renting laws and questioned the motives of opponents.

Better Renting is part of the Make Renting Fair CBR Alliance, which has been campaigning for an end to “unfair evictions”, a fairer system for rent increases, and minimum standards for rental properties. They say that proposed rental reforms – introduced in the ACT Assembly on Thursday 1 November – are a good first step.

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Who’d a thunk it: rental regulations can co-exist with a healthy rental sector

Recently, the ACT Government announced a plan to introduce measures to make life marginally better for people who rent. While there isn’t much detail yet, changes would include:

  • A right to have pets,
  • More rights to make minor modifications, &
  • A requirement on landlords to justify excessive rent increases.

These changes are modest. All the same, property management types have pulled out the same tired playbook and argued that making renting fairer will bring about the end of times, returning all of humanity to a struggle for survival in which life is nasty, brutish, and short.

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A big week in renting

It has been a big week for rental campaigning in Australia:

Wow. You’d almost be forgiven for thinking that the balance has swung too far in the other direction.


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The meaning of home

In Australia, the meaning of home is often linked to ownership. To make a home, we must first own it. But what if you don’t own your home? What if you rent? 

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Better Renting Submission Re: Treasury Laws Amendment (Improving the Energy Efficiency of Rental Properties) Bill 2018

Better Renting made a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications, regarding "Treasury Laws Amendment (Improving the Energy Efficiency of Rental Properties) Bill 2018.

Our submission is available here. All submissions can be viewed and downloaded here

Melbourne Renters Facebook group!

We've just launched a Facebook group for people who rent in Melbourne. You can join it here

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People who rent deserve homes

My older sister owns a house. Whenever I visit, I’m struck by how nice it is to own a home. She and her husband have made upgrades. They’ve started a garden. When they recently had a son, they could readily make modifications to make the house safer and more comfortable for their baby.

I have this yearning too – to be able to make a place my own. To have a home, to make it an expression of who I am, to put down roots in a community.

It’s not uncommon for people like me, who rent, to harbour such desires. In our current system, you’d be mad to want to be a renter forever. But is it ownership that renters are after? Or just decent homes?

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Frozen out: The Burden of Energy Deficiency on People who Rent

Rental properties are ‘energy deficient’: the lack of energy efficiency places a burden on renters in the form of increased energy expenditure or harmful indoor temperatures. This report estimates the monetary value of this burden by calculating the worth of the thermal energy that energy deficient rental properties lack. Drawing upon six years of real estate data, we calculate the annual burden of energy deficiency in the ACT to be $39 million. The burden is particularly heavy for vulnerable renters, such as those on a low-income or living with disability. This analysis strengthens the arguments for minimum energy efficiency standards for rental properties.

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Renters need collective solutions

New players in the private rental sector claim to make things better for renters. In reality, they benefit certain renters at the expense of others. What we really need are structural solutions.

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Media release: Renters welcome Government caution on commercial guarantees

Renters rights organisation Better Renting has come out in support of the ACT Government’s move to delay commercial guarantees, just days after regulations came into effect to allow their operation.

Joel Dignam, Director of Better Renting, welcomed the decision. “We’ve been hearing from renters concerned about facing additional costs just to secure a roof over their head. We applaud the Government’s responsiveness to community concern on this issue.”

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What do you think about ‘bond guarantees’?

From 7 May 2018, landlords in the ACT now have the option to ask for a ‘bond guarantee’ instead of a bond. This change might take you by surprise, and it’s not exactly clear what it will mean for peolpe who rent. We want to provide an update on what’s coming and hear your views or concerns.

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Four in ten Canberra rentals score worst energy efficiency rating

More than four in ten Canberra rental properties have the lowest-possible energy efficiency rating of zero, according to a new report released today.

The report by new renter organisation Better Renting compared advertised Energy Efficiency Ratings for properties for sale and for rent through January and February. It found that 43% of rated rental properties had a rating of 0, compared with just 4% of properties for sale.

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Media Release: New renters' organisation calls for action as UK rental standards come into effect

A new renters advocacy organisation in the ACT is calling for minimum rental standards as new laws come into effect in the UK requiring rental properties to meet minimum energy efficiency standards.

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Better Renting submission on 'Housing Choices'

Planning decisions in the ACT will affect housing affordability and quality of life for renters and other citizens. Better Renting made a submission to the recent 'Housing Choices' inquiry to contribute to the planning conversation in the ACT. Our submission can be downloaded here.

A glimpse of renting in Australia

In just this last week, we've heard stories from renters that give a grim picture of what renting is like for renters in Australia today, covering issues of bond-theft, energy-inefficiency, homelessness, and negligence. 

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The start of 'Better Renting'

Welcome to Better Renting - a community of renters working together for the homes we deserve. Better Renting has grown out of Comfy Homes - a campaign for minimum energy efficiency standards for rental properties. 

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Derelict properties are harming the health of renters

A 2016 journal article on housing and health data in Australia confirms what many renters probably know from experience: that Australian renters live in properties that are in worse condition, and this is bad for their health.

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