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Motion: Residential Tenancies Act Review

7 September 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:

That this council—

1. Notes that the state government is undertaking a review of the Residential Tenancies Act.

2. Recognises that the voices of renters should be included in all deliberations.

3. Calls on the Malinauskas government to:

(a) end no-cause evictions;

(b) introduce rent capping to protect vulnerable people from unfair rent hikes;

(c) give renters security and stability through long-term tenancies;

(d) prohibit 'no pets' clauses in leases;

(e) end rent bidding that forces unfair rent increases; and

(f) ensure all homes meet energy efficiency and ventilation standards.

The motion I am moving today recognises that the state government is undertaking a review of the Residential Tenancies Act, notes that the voice of renters should be included in the government's deliberations and calls on the government to address some of the serious issues with the Residential Tenancies Act in South Australia.

The Greens, for some time, have been calling on this Labor government and, indeed, the previous Liberal government, to bring South Australia into line with other jurisdictions across our country by:

ending no-cause evictions;

introducing rent capping to protect vulnerable people;

providing security and stability for renters through providing for longer term tenancies;

prohibiting 'no pets' clauses in leases, which we know force many people into homelessness and also force pets out onto the street;

ending rent bidding, which forces unfair increases; and

ensuring that homes meet energy efficiency and ventilation standards.

I want to commend the Malinauskas government for undertaking a review of the Residential Tenancies Act. It is well overdue. Last month, I was given the opportunity to observe a round table convened by the minister and the consumer commissioner, Dini Soulio, to look at the Residential Tenancies Act, and that included a range of stakeholders.

I was concerned, however, that the Anti-Poverty Network was not included in those discussions because we know that what happens in the rental market has a huge impact on poverty and that people who are forced out of residential tenancies are often plunged into homelessness, particularly in the middle of this rental crisis. It was an oversight of the government to not include the Anti-Poverty Network in those deliberations, and the Greens are very keen to ensure that the voice of renters is front and centre of this review. I urge the government to ensure that they are talking to those who are directly impacted by the Residential Tenancies Act.

We know that for far too long this act has been skewed in favour of landlords. That is the way our system works. One of the big problems we face in South Australia are no-cause evictions, which allows a landlord, at the end of a fixed-lease tenancy, a 12-month tenancy, to say, 'Well, that's it; you're out.' We know that what that means is that a number of tenants are reluctant to come forward with legitimate issues concerning their tenancy.

I have had many constituents contact me, not only as a member of this place but also in my former life as an Adelaide City councillor, a number of tenants contacting me talking about issues that they have had in getting their landlord to make basic changes to the property or to undertake basic maintenance. Many of these tenants are in fear of taking a landlord through to the tribunal because they are worried that they are going to earn a reputation as a bad tenant, that they are not going to have their lease renewed and that they are going to find themselves homeless. This is a situation that is exacerbated by the record low vacancy rate we have in South Australia.

I welcome the review, but it is integral that the government consults with renters, the people who are directly affected, and it is integral that they take the action that is needed to fix our Residential Tenancies Act so that South Australians do not find themselves in a situation where they have less protections than their counterparts in other states.