There are calls for governments to prioritise rental security after a new survey found thousands of renters are being discriminated against and living in fear of homelessness.
Among those worst affected are single and elderly women and particularly those aged 55 years and older, who are at greater risk of poverty and homelessness due to financial insecurity.
In 2011, according to ABS Census data published by the University of Queensland, there were 135,494 women aged 55 and older in the private rental market, up from 91,549 who were counted in the 2006 Census.
It’s estimated that there are twice as many people renting property in Australia then there are people living in owner occupied homes.
It’s often seen that the cost of renting can be cheaper than paying off a mortgage. But record low interest rates and more investors becoming landlords as a result of buying multiple properties, has changed the game.
“Governments across Australia are rightly focused on the issue of housing affordability,” says Adrian Pisarski, National Shelter’s Executive Officer.
“Affordability is extremely important to renters, but it can’t be addressed without also looking at the quality and security of housing.”
“It’s hard to imagine a product or service this poor in any other sector,” says Alan Kirkland chief executive of consumer group CHOICE.
“As consumers of rental properties, tenants have to deal with major quality issues like mould or flooding and are systematically denied access to a timely remedy.”
Among the key findings of new research commissioned by the National Association of Tenant Organisations and National Shelter include:
– 83 per cent of renters in Australia have no fixed-term lease or are on a lease less than 12 months long
– 62 per cent of people say they feel like they can’t ask for changes
– 50 per cent of renters report experiencing discrimination when applying for a rental property
– 50 per cent of renters worried about being listed on a residential tenancy database
– 20 per cent of renters have experienced leaking, flooding and issues with mould
– 8 per cent of renters are living in a property in need of urgent repairs
“For Australians who don’t own a home, renting should be a secure and affordable option free of fear and discrimination,” says Mr Kirkland.
“Unfortunately, the research reveals a significant power imbalance between tenants and landlords, leading to a culture of fear that means many renters stay silent when something goes wrong.
“It’s deeply concerning that common features of everyday life like having children, receiving a government payment or owning a pet can be major barriers for renters trying to find a home,” he said.
According to property website Domain, a new white paper from Mortgage Choice in conjunction with research firm Core Data, found the majority of people think the Australian property market is too expensive to buy into and are likely renting as a result.