Rental Reform Win for Homelessness Advocacy

Reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act passed the Victorian upper house late Thursday night, with the reforms removing no-reason notices to vacate, building stronger protections for victims of family violence and providing more support for people who fall behind on rent to avoid eviction.

Acting CEO of Council to Homeless Persons (CHP), Kate Colvin, said until these changes were passed it had been “too easy for landlords to evict” and that the new the new rental laws would “protect, rather than punish” tenants who are already disadvantaged.

“We are really excited about it because it’s much better to prevent eviction by making renting more secure, than it is for someone to be evicted, and then for the homeless sector to have to try and re-house them,” Colvin said.

“Last night’s vote shows that people in Parliament having been listening to the concerns of Victorians, and the services that help them, and agree that renters deserve more protections, not less.”

With domestic and family violence one of the major causes of homelessness, the new changes mean rental agreements could be terminated in situations of domestic violence.

A spokesperson for the Victorian Andrews government said: “The change will ensure victims are not held liable for the debts of their abusers, implementing the Royal Commission into Family Violence’s recommendation to better protect and support victims of family violence living in rental housing.”

Minister for Consumer Affairs Marlene Kairouz, said the new laws were the biggest reform in Victoria’s renting history.

“They are about ensuring everyone who rents has a safe and secure home to call their own,” Kairouz said.

Colvin said while they welcomed the changes, CHP and the rest of the sector would continue to fight for a focus on affordable and accessible housing, as tenancy laws were only “one part of the picture”.

“We are in a really tight rental market at the moment with a really low vacancy rate and it’s very difficult, particularly for tenants on lower incomes to get a new property if the one they’re in currently doesn’t meet their needs,” she said.

Colvin said CHP and other advocacy bodies worked closely with Tenants Victoria to see these changes through, and would continue to do so to ensure the new reforms, and other issues concerning homelessness, were acted on.

“CHP has a really long history of working closely with Tenants Victoria and Homeless Law and Victorian Council of Social Service, who have been part of this journey to get residential tenancies reform happening,” she said.

“We will certainly continue to work closely with them.”

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