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‘First step’ rental reforms pass in NSW as premier promises more

By Juliet Helmke
27 June 2023 | 12 minute read
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The NSW government has passed the suite of rental reforms it introduced in May, albeit without a controversial ban on rental bidding.

NSW Premier Chris Minns introduced the bill on 10 May, calling the reforms “a sensible cost of living measure to help ease the pressure on the over 30 per cent of people in New South Wales currently renting” and citing his promises delivered during the March 2023 NSW state election to reduce stress on tenants.

The measures that passed Parliament on Thursday, 22 June served to:

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  • Close existing loopholes and extend the ban on soliciting rental bids so it applies to third-party platforms and owners, not just real estate agents,
  • Empower the NSW Rental Commissioner to gather pricing data from agents, allowing them to advocate for renters and provide quality advice to government; and
  • Create the appropriate powers to design and implement a portable bond scheme that will deliver significant financial relief to renters.

Absent was a controversial proposal to eliminate what the government termed “secret rent bidding” by requiring owners and their agents to notify applicants of other offers from prospective tenants that were higher than the advertised price.

When news of this proposed reform hit the industry, many pointed out that it may, in fact, serve to unintentionally sanction rental bidding by publicising higher rental offers.

The government then decided to “press pause” on the plan, allowing the incoming NSW rental commissioner to consult with industry on a better way to address concerns about rental bidding.

Upon passage of the bill, the state’s minister for better regulation and fair trading, Anoulack Chanthivong, said the government felt they had enacted “responsible reforms” and promised that they would continue to look at ways to improve rental conditions.

“Today’s reforms are the first step, not the last. We’re already working on the next tranche of changes to deliver relief, including making it easier to have pets in rentals and ending no-grounds evictions,” Mr Chanthivong said.

And he highlighted how the recent changes would make a difference for renters, particularly in the process of moving from one property to another.

“In the existing system, a renter paying $550 per week faces a bond cost of $2,200 if they want to move. A portable bonds scheme will end the system that sees the average renter forced to spend the equivalent of 11 weeks’ groceries to move from home A to home B,” he explained.

A statement from the government also pointed to its endeavours to address housing supply, bringing more rental options onto the market and thus easing the pressure on rapidly rising rents.

It noted the recent announcement of a pathway for faster planning decisions and incentives for developers to include affordable housing in their plans.

The NSW government has also begun an audit into surplus public land that could be rezoned for housing and promised the forthcoming creation of a building commission to ensure a high quality of construction throughout the state.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Juliet Helmke

Based in Sydney, Juliet Helmke has a broad range of reporting and editorial experience across the areas of business, technology, entertainment and the arts. She was formerly Senior Editor at The New York Observer.

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