The wailing and gnashing of teeth that has greeted the mild changes to our tenancy legislation is ridiculous. The new laws relating to pets in rental properties is measured and moderate – you can’t keep a tiger in your flat or an elephant in your backyard. If you are a landlord the sky is not going to fall down, but if you are a renter your roof just might. That’s because the new rules about pets are the least of our problems.
The Northern Territory has the third most expensive rents in the Australia. More than 50% of Territorians rent – the highest proportion in the country. Our antiquated tenancy laws see families, young professionals, older people leave the Territory, because housing is insecure and the balance unfair. This is not the way to grow our economy.
The Territory has the shortest eviction notice periods in Australia – 14 days – and landlords do not need to give a reason for evicting tenants. We are the only jurisdiction in Australia without an independent rental bond board. Only in the Territory can landlords and agents can withhold a bond arbitrarily. The NT also stands out as the only jurisdiction that does not consider tenants who are victims of domestic violence.
“Renting is the new normal” says Linda Weatherhead, Executive Director, Darwin Community Legal Service. “Our laws should encourage renters to see their rented house or flat as their home. Long-term, stable rentals will also provide reliable returns for investors. Everybody wins.”
In 2018 the Territory Government promised to complete a comprehensive review of the residential tenancy law. They have not delivered. We know that property groups are among the major donors to the Labor Party and we can only assume they want their pound of flesh. But we would also remind the government that renters are the silent majority – and that they vote.--