There are concerns that low vacancy rates in the Gold Coast rental market are discouraging tenants from asserting their rights with real estate agents and landlords.
Median vacancy rates remain below 1 per cent across the city and the tight competition for available properties has grown amid booming interstate migration.
Burleigh Waters resident Aline Christ said her real estate agent proposed a 15 per cent increase to her rent, due to the competitive market.
My salary doesn’t really reflect that type of price for
rent, especially being a single mother and I am the sole provider,” she said.
While advocacy bodies for both tenants and landlords disagree on what policy responses to the issue should look like, both agree some renters feel discouraged from pressing their rights.
‘It’s a two-way relationship’
Ms Christ said she wrote to her agents because the proposed increase “doesn’t seem fair” and asked for her message to be passed on to the owner.
“[The owner] had no idea the real estate was proposing to raise my rent that much,” she said.
Ms Christ said she and the landlord reached a new agreement, but that it was “a two-way relationship”.
“We’ve been doing the right thing; how about rewarding us for being clean, quiet, paying rent on time?
However, Tenants Queensland chief executive Penny Carr said that, with such low vacancy rates, many renters were desperate.
People are taking things
sight unseen, tenants are up-bidding the rent and offering long periods of time upfront to pay the rent,” she said.
“The past few months have created a lot of problems for renters.”
Review of rental rules underway
Prior to the surge in housing demand seen towards the end of 2020, the Queensland government announced it would review tenancy laws.
According to the Residential Tenancies Authority, a landlord or real estate agent can choose to not renew a lease without providing a reason, so long as they give two months’ notice ahead of the contract’s end date.
But Ms Carr said that rule “brings a lot of instability to renters”.
“Those rights might be around getting repairs done or challenging the amount of [a] rent increase.”
Ms Carr said that, if a tenant suspected their lease had been ended “in retaliation for standing up for your rights”, then there was an ability to challenge that.
“But it’s very hard to prove,” she said.
“In general, renters try to negotiate with what’s in front of them because they want good relations with their owner or agent.”
Tenants Queensland wants legislation revised to ensure a property owner or real estate agent must provide reasonable grounds before deciding not to renew a lease.
These would include if the owner or their family needed to move in or the property had been sold, if a major renovation or repair was planned, if the contract had been consistently breached, or if the property was unfit to live in.
Regulatory restraint urged
Meanwhile, Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) chief executive Antonia Mercorella said the proposal from Tenants Queensland, along with a similar proposal from The Greens, would harm confidence in the housing market.
“They’re suggesting or recommending that, if the tenant wants to stay on, the property owner must permit that,” Ms Mercorella said.
“That’s really not tenable. I don’t think that’s practical and, of course, it flies directly in the face of basic contract law principles to suggest one party gets to determine how long they wish to stay for.”
Ms Mercorella said “really extraordinary circumstances” have fuelled the competitive
rental market but that, “as a general rule”, tenants are “very well protected.
There’s no doubt that, because the
rental market is so tight, and it’s so difficult to find a rental property at present, I absolutely think that is a fair argument, that is going to cause people to feel like they shouldn’t speak up,” she said.
Ms Mercorella said, however, revisions to tenancy regulations must also cater for when the market eases.
“There are also times when it will swing very much the other way and market conditions will be very much in favour of tenants,” she said.
“Equally, we wouldn’t suggest that then legislation needs to be changed to ensure property owners have the upper hand.”