Minggu, 30 Januari 2011

Residential Tenancies Act 2010 commences today

It's Monday 31 January 2011, and New South Wales finally has new renting laws in place and operating, with the commencement of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW).

(Brave New World? Not quite.)

On a scale of one to 10, I give the new Act a six – and that's after taking a mark off for lateness (after all, the review of the State's renting laws started back in 2005, and that's after a non-conclusive review that began in 1998). The new Act is welcome, but more needs to be done to make renting a fairer and more decent way of living.

As we discussed here before, most of the changes made by the Act are improvements. But some old problems remain, and there are new issues emerging that aren't addressed by the Act.

The insecurity of renting remains a major problem – in particular, the new Act does not stop landlords from giving termination notices without grounds. Requiring reasonable grounds for termination is not a big ask. In our society today, if you are to lose your job, you'd expect there to be a good reason; similarly, if you are to lose your tenancy and your home, there should be a good reason for that too.

Another old problem: that of the marginal renters – the boarding house residents, the lodgers – who weren't covered by the old Act, and who aren't covered by this Act. These renters still have nineteenth century-style common law lodging licences and no effective protections against summary rent increases and evictions, and no effective assurance of decent service provision by their landlords. We need legislation that provides for some basic occupancy principles for renters who are not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act.

Beyond the new Act, safety concerns in rental housing should received further attention from government. We're seeing, literally, an epidemic of children suffering horrific injuries from falling from windows. Window safety devices, as well as electrical safety switches, should be required by law in all rental properties.

There's more – but for this Act, check the Tenants' Union's factsheets for more information on your rights and obligations, and check here at the Brown Couch for more analysis of the new provisions. We'll start tomorrow with the some of the new share housing provisions, as we begin... Share Housing Month!