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NSW appoints inaugural rental commissioner to level playing field for tenants

By Zarah Torrazo
11 July 2023 | 11 minute read
trina jones homelessness nsw reb sqp8xf

The NSW government has appointed the first-ever state rental commissioner as it looks to revolutionise the rental market and empower renters.

Trina Jones, the former chief executive of Homelessness Australia, says she hopes to be an advocate for renters across the state when she officially steps into the role on 7 August.

“In taking on the role of rental commissioner, my mission is to amplify the voice of renters, help strengthen their rights, and improve the fairness of the rental market,” she stated.

The commissioner will work with the government to design and implement changes that rebalance the rental market, making it fairer and more modern.

“I look forward to working closely and productively with government, industry, renters, and owners across our state as we collaboratively search for solutions to our housing challenges.”

As the newly appointed NSW rental commissioner, Ms Jones will serve as an advocate for renters and collaborate with the government and stakeholders to actively progress the recently announced consultation-based raft of rental reforms.

These include facilitating pet ownership for renters, eliminating “no-grounds” evictions, introducing a portable bonds scheme, and enhancing renter privacy and information protection.

Adding to the big tasks faced by Ms Jones, the rental commissioner will also assume the responsibility of identifying and investigating various other challenges that affect the NSW rental market.

This includes examining rental affordability and supply, promoting longer term rental agreements, exploring energy efficiency solutions, creating educational resources for renters and owners, and monitoring existing tenancy laws.

Premier Chris Minns said the appointment was an important step” as tenants face what is generally acknowledged from all corners of the housing industry as a market that is the “toughest that renters have seen for decades.”

“Anyone who rents in NSW knows just how anxious and challenging the process can be to find suitable accommodation, not to mention the rent increases and cost of living pressures,” he added.

Premier Minns said he is looking forward to working with the new commissioner to make the state “a fairer place for both renters and owners.”

“We can’t fix years of problems in the rental market overnight, but we have already made a start and we are determined to do more.”

With renters representing nearly a third of the state’s population, Minister for Better Regulation and Fair Trading Anoulack Chanthivong highlights the importance of their right to “secure and fair” housing.

“Trina’s job will be to advocate and drive meaningful change,” he stated.

Minister Chanthivong emphasised the housing crisis is not just a matter of affordability, but amenity as well.

“We need rules that let renters get on with their lives with the rights and security they need.

“We’re consulting now on changes to improve stability and fairness in the rental market. I’m looking forward to working with Trina to bring this work together by the end of the year, he said.

Ms Jones’ inaugural appointment to the role was welcomed by renters advocacy group Tenants’ Union NSW, who expressed their optimism that the addition of the new sectoral figure will “elevate the conversation” about renting in the state.

The group underlined the establishment of the commissioner role and acknowledged renters “have not always been well served by government policy or regulatory structures over many decades,” adding the rental sector is not performing optimally, and is causing many people harm.

Leo Patterson Ross, chief executive of Tenants’ Union of NSW, believes Ms Jones’ appointment comes at a time when escalating rents are placing significant pressure on renting households across NSW.

A new report from CoreLogic showed Sydney remained the most expensive capital city for renters in the June quarter, with the average weekly price of rents costing tenants $733 following a 3.2 per cent increase in rents over the three-month period.

Mr Ross emphasised the state government will need to step up to start up “a fresh and ambitious conversation” about what is needed to more effectively address the problem of unaffordable rents and rent increases.

“There are a number of models for putting in place fairer limits on rent prices that the commissioner should consider and adapt for use in NSW. This is an area where the public discussion needs to be lifted and the commissioner can lead the conversation.

“We look forward to working together with Commissioner Jones towards our shared goal of ensuring that all homes are good homes,” he concluded.

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