Senin, 11 April 2011

Sex exploitation in marginal rental

Today's Herald reports on the experience of international students living in illegal boarding houses in university-side suburbs throughout Sydney. These marginal renters often live in difficult conditions – the 'boarding houses' are often just ordinary houses and flats with partitions thrown up to create additional rooms, in each of which several students might sleep – and sometimes have to deal with some of the very worst landlords in our housing system, whose demands start at exploitative rents and go on to exploitative sex.

The Herald reports that the new State Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Victor Dominello – also MP for Ryde, where many of these boarding houses have sprung up – is proposing legislation to better regulate this sort of marginal rental accommodation.

In fact, the Minister has already got some legislation ready – a private member's Bill drafted last year, when he was in Opposition. This Bill would have created a boarding houses register, to help sort the legitimate operators from the rogues.

As the Tenants' Union said at the time, a boarding houses register would be a welcome and useful consumer protection measure and should be part of a wider ranging program of reform of the marginal rental sector. In particular, let's build on the register so that it also becomes an accreditation or even a licensing system to check that operators have appropriate skills and knowledge of their business (Mr Dominello's party proposed something similar for residential park operators ahead of the election).

And let's also get the lamentable state of legal relations between marginal renters and landlords sorted out with legislation for modern occupancy agreements that have to comply with a few basic occupancy principles.

It's not only the marginal renters themselves who stand to benefit form better regulation. The universities and the legitimate operators should get behind marginal rental reform too, for the benefit of their reputations and businesses.

Good on Mr Dominello for maintaining his interest in this neglected part of our housing system as his party makes its transition to government. And here's hoping that from his new position of power, the Minister builds on his efforts in opposition and pushes for a more ambitious program of reform for marginal renters.