The number of tenants who are suddenly being kicked out because their landlord has said their rental is “uninhabitable” is increasing in New South Wales. Truly dire news considering the fact most Australian rentals are too mouldy and cold for safe living.
Tenants’ Union of NSW spokesperson Leo Patterson Ross told the Sydney Morning Herald the number of people who’ve approached the union because they’ve faced eviction due to an uninhabitable rental has doubled over the past year.
“One of the risks of complaining about the condition of a rental property is that tenants open themselves up to being slapped with an ‘uninhabitable’ termination notice or no-grounds eviction,” Patterson Ross said.
“No-grounds” evictions are a notoriously cruel part of Australia’s rental landscape, giving landlords the power to evict tenants without giving them a reason.
According to advocacy group Better Renting, landlords typically enforce no-grounds evictions for “unfair” reasons. For example, when they’ve had enough of tenants requesting maintenance or want to get a higher rent for their property and it’s easier to simply get new tenants in, rather than negotiate with the existing ones.
A report on the costs and impact of eviction from the Tenants’ Union of NSW found no-grounds evictions were becoming increasingly normalised across the state.
“It is relatively easy for a landlord to evict a renter, and often accepted as a standard or common practice. This is so much the case that we currently accept ‘no reason’ in NSW tenancy law to be a good enough reason to evict. As a community, we are failing to effectively challenge its prevalence despite the clear harm that results from its use,” the report said.
Within the NSW Residential Tenancies Act, landlords have an obligation to maintain rental properties to a “reasonable state of repair”. But a loophole within the legislation means this obligation only kicks in when a tenant signs a contract — not when the house is being advertised.
And if a landlord evicts a tenant because the rental is uninhabitable, there’s nothing stopping them from whacking the property back on the market and finding someone to take their spot.
It’s just a cycle of landlords successfully avoiding any responsibility to safely maintain their properties, all the while displacing renters. Bit fucked, really.