Home sweet home - act for the house not the tenant

Rental housing Low income housing Tenants Marginal housing
Attachment Size
apo-nid113971.pdf 1.61 MB

Executive Summary: This project was developed in response to the anecdotal evidence of the poor standard of rental accommodation available to low income earners of the western suburbs of Melbourne, coupled with the lack of tenant-initiated repairs disputes at VCAT. This project commenced with a team of FCLC lawyers approaching 18 tenants from Melbourne’s western suburbs who lived in houses that were in need of urgent repairs. These tenants were approached in an informal manner and offered free, at home legal advice and, if it came to it, representation at VCAT. None of the 18 tenants interviewed wanted to improve their housing, even when it was explained to them that it was their right when paying rent to live in a well-maintained property. Their reasons for not pursuing any repairs for their property were difficult to determine. Some tenants appeared to automatically mistrust lawyers, VCAT or the whole repairs process. Further questioning of tenants who attended FCLC for various legal matters provided evidence that some of the reasons tenants did not want to pursue repairs and maintenance requests included that they: a) were concerned they would be evicted; b) did not understand the repairs process; c) did not understand they had a right to a well-maintained property under the RTA;2 or d) were thankful to find a house considering the current housing shortage and therefore did not want to ask for repairs. Whatever the reasons behind tenants’ decisions not to pursue their legal rights, it was clear that the Residential Tenancies list at VCAT is almost entirely used by landlords against tenants with 95% of matters on the tenancies list being landlord initiated. 80% of all landlord initiated matters are undefended.3 FCLC solicitors viewed properties that had broken windows and locks, leaking pipes, unstable floors, rotting walls and ceilings. FCLC further investigated the state of rental housing in the western suburbs of Melbourne, with a sample survey of 100 tenants, focused on determining the overall state of rental accommodation in these areas and the reasons why tenants decide not to pursue their rights for repairs to their property. That survey showed there were two overriding problems to the issue; tenant awareness and tenant burden.

Publication Details
Publication place:
Publication Year: