More than 616,000 households in Victoria, or 27.5 per cent of all households, are renting. How does the state deal with common tenancy problems across its rental market?
During the 2018–19 financial year, Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) received a total of 56,490 queries, with most of them about private rental (53,419), public housing (1,288) and rooming houses (1,029), according to the Renting in Victoria: Snapshot 2020 report.
Commissioner for Residential Tenancies Heather Holst said: “The report gives a broad picture of key renting issues experienced by the steadily growing number of people who rent in Victoria as well as a baseline we can use to look at the effects the coronavirus may have on this sector moving forward.”
Looking closer, 51 per cent of Victorian renters experienced an issue over the duration of their tenancy, with 11 per cent saying the property was in poor condition or unmaintained. Of these, 28 per cent said that their maintenance issues were not attended to.
The top five complaints reported to CAV are repairs and maintenance, bonds, termination rights, unregistered rooming houses, and rent and receipts.
In the same period, CAV issued 16 infringement notices under the tenancy law, including duty to pay bond to authority, standards for rooming houses, and bond form lodgement.
Overall, CAV resolved 1,438 renting disputes in 2019 through frontline compliance and resolution.
Meanwhile, Tenants Victoria received a total of 14,861 complaints during the 2018–19 financial year, with the top five issues being compensation, repairs, bond refund, privacy/quiet enjoyment and notice to vacate.
The Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program (TAAP), through which community agencies provide private tenancy information and services, also dealt with issues on possession or notice to vacate, compensation claims, bond claims, rent arrears and lease breaking.
In the same financial year, TAAP assisted over 5,800 tenancy matters, 12 per cent higher than issues reported from 2017–18.
To settle disputes, Victoria Legal Aid provided 2,519 complex residential services during 2018–19, including grants, advice, duty lawyer services and other minor work. They also supplied 4,177 legal information and referral service on landlord and tenant issues.
During the same period, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) received 52,412 applications, with the highest percentage from estate agents and property managers (61 per cent), followed by public housing (16.5 per cent), tenants or residents (12.8 per cent), private landlords (7.3 per cent) and other stakeholders, such as rooming house owners and caravan park owners (2.5 per cent).
Approximately 25 to 30 per cent of hearings are contested at VCAT, with overall customer satisfaction about the process at 86.4 per cent in 2019, up by 0.3 of a percentage point from 2018.
Renting in Victoria: Snapshot will be produced annually to improve the knowledge of renting in Victoria and ultimately improve outcomes for tenants through data analysis and comparisons, according to Ms Holst.
In support of the initiative, Minister for Consumer Affairs Melissa Horne said: “Future editions of the report will help us identify and respond to emerging trends, which can help us create stronger outcomes for renters — something we continuously strive for.”