Published in SMH Domain, 13 August 2016
There are two major problems with tenants. Firstly, we treat them with contempt and disdain and then wonder why some of them – a tiny minority – behave badly.
Then we keep telling them that they have failed in life if they don’t own a house. I use the word “house” advisedly because our politicians still think that renting a unit is double jeopardy.
You rent? A unit? Surely leasing a great apartment in a terrific area is just a stepping stone to owning a crappy bungalow in a virtual war zone.
So where does that leave the more than 50 per cent of apartment residents who are tenants?
Getting very little love from either landlords or politicians, is where.
And yet they are the backbone of the housing industry. No tenants means no investment properties and no negative gearing. So why do we treat them so badly, forcing them to move every six months, just so we can jack up the rent?
Maybe someday our pollies will realise that long-term apartment tenants are one of the building blocks of inner-city communities.
But that will only happen when we evict from our thinking both the stigma attached to renting and the financial incentive to keep turning over tenants.
Which brings us to Tenants Union NSW, next week celebrating 40 years of advising tenants on how to combat unreasonable landlords as well as campaigning for better tenancy laws.
“Renters in NSW can still be told to leave their home for no reason,” says Ned Cutcher, senior policy officer at the Tenants’ Union of NSW. “There are no limits on how often rent can be increased, and there needs to be an easier way for renters to challenge an excessive increase.”
The union reckons more than one in three people in NSW rent, increasingly families with children, and they do so for longer than before.
“Our renting laws need to change to provide greater security for everyone who makes a rented house their home,” says Cutcher.