Queensland’s rental laws set for major reform after public calls for price caps, flexible pet rules
Long-term renter Ofa Fanaika couldn’t keep up with rental increases in her suburb. (ABC News: Tim Swanston)
In the past two decades, Ofa Fanaika has seen her inner-city rental costs increase fivefold, pushing her out of her favourite suburb and disconnecting her from a community she holds dear.
- 130,000 people have had their say in a government feedback process on rental laws
- Landmark reforms are likely due by the middle of next year
- Making pet ownership easier and capping price increases could be part of the changes
But Ms Fanaika — along with hundreds of thousands of renters across Queensland — could now benefit from changing rental laws, with the State Government likely to introduce landmark reforms to the state’s tenancy act by the middle of next year.
After an extensive nine-week feedback process, about 130,000 responses were submitted to the State Government about what should change, from making pet ownership in rental properties easier, to capping rental price increases.
Tenants Queensland would like to see a cap on any rental increase 20 per cent above the Consumer Price Index, while others have floated a much lower cap of 1 per cent.
Tenants Queensland CEO Penny Carr said after four decades of little significant change to the legislation, it needed an overhaul.
“We’ve got large numbers of people that have been in the market for 10 years or more … we’ve got growing numbers of older people in tenancy arrangements,” she said.
“It’s time to modernise tenancy laws so that people can actually make a property their home … it’s not a transitional tenure anymore.”
Tenants Queensland CEO Penny Carr says it’s time to modernise Queensland’s rental laws. (ABC News: Tim Swanston)
For Ms Fanaika, a 38-year-old music tutor who moved out of her West End share house just over a year ago because of increasing costs and restrictive pet guidelines the need to reform is front of mind.
“I went from share houses where I was probably paying something like $65 a week,” she said.
“That eventually escalated the next year to $80, then to $100, then $125, then to something like $235 — and that change happened relatively quickly.
“Then it got up to $480 to get a shared space … it just became unaffordable.”
Under financial strain, Ms Fanaika said she started making big sacrifices to stay in the community.
“I was going to co-ops to get food, doing things on the cheap, dumpster diving, walking places, not buying instruments or getting repairs done at pivotal times,” she said.
“I had lots of creative ways of being able to save money so that I could keep a roof over my head.”
Despite fairly flat rental prices in recent years, Ms Fanaika has not been able to find a way back into West End.
“I miss the sense of community I had, the ability to walk a few streets to another person’s house, have that community vibe, share a meal and talk about what we’re doing in terms of our arts projects,” she said.
“I can’t do that here where I am now.”
About 34 per cent of Queensland households are renters — a figure that is expected to climb in coming years.
Last year, more Australians bought their seventh home than those who bought their first, and research from PRDnationwide shows the number of first home buyers in Brisbane has fallen almost 4 per cent.
Eviction without grounds ‘raises a fear in renters’
At the end of a fixed-term lease, or to end a periodic lease agreement in Queensland, landlords can issue an eviction notice without grounds, while other states and territories have legislated out that ability.
Ms Carr said it was one of the major things that needed to change, and urged the State Government to include that in next year’s upcoming rental reform bill.
“That ability to evict without any grounds really raises a fear in renters,” she said.
“So they will live in properties that are ill-repaired or they will do something that the agent wants them to do, which is not really required of them.
“It’s a cost-free outcome for governments and a cost-free outcome for owners, but it’s really a priceless sort of outcome for tenants.”
But Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) chief executive Antonia Mercorella said it was important landlords were able to terminate leases at the end of a fixed term.
Ms Mercorella says landlords cannot end a lease mid-term without a reason. (ABC News: Tim Swanston)
“A no-grounds termination simply means that at the end of that 12-month period, the landlord can decide that they don’t wish to renew and they don’t need to give a reason for that,” she said.
“Similarly, the tenant doesn’t need to give a reason for why they’re not interested in renewing.
“The perception that a no-grounds eviction is that a landlord can come and simply end a lease in the middle of the term without giving you any reasons is certainly not the case and you cannot do that in Queensland.
“I think it would be absurd to suggest that a landlord should be put in a position where they have no choice at the end of an agreed term [where] the tenant says I wish to stay and the landlord is unable to say no.”
Ms Mercorella said the REIQ was seeking greater flexibility in any law reform.
“The act is very restrictive in the way that it doesn’t allow parties to reach their own agreement on a number of issues,” she said.
“There are a whole range of issues that if the parties were able to have some greater contractual freedom … we would see longer-term tenancies.”
“When we talk to landlords, they don’t want vacant properties, they don’t actually want to be evicting tenants … they want good, stable, long-term relationships where tenants make the rent requirements and look after the property and maintain it.”