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New survey data shows full impact of unlimited rent increases

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Data released today from a new renters survey shows the full impact of unlimited rent increases on WA renters and “undeniable case for rent caps”.  The survey revealed that the vast majority of WA renters experienced at least one rent increase in the 12 months, and 85 per cent would struggle with an another increase.  

Almost two thirds of tenants surveyed also reported that they are currently too scared to ask for maintenance or necessary repairs in case that leads to an increase in rent.

It comes as the latest REIWA data shows that in just three years since the Covid-19 pandemic, WA’s median house rent increased by $190 per week, from $360 in October 2019 to $550 in April 2023.

The survey, conducted by the Make Renting Fair campaign, has had 352 responses as at 3 May 2023, and has exposed what advocates are describing as “deeply concerning findings” about the impacts of uncontrolled rent increases on West Australian renters. 

The survey found

  • 30% of survey respondents have been renting more than 20 years. 
    • 51% of respondents were living with or had someone in the household experiencing disability. 
  • 60% of respondents had experienced at least one rent increase in the last year, including 17% who experienced two or more increases.
    • Most rents increased by $21-$75 a week, but one in ten saw increases of $76-$100 per week. 
  • 85% would struggle with another rent increase.
    • 52% would find it difficult and 33% would find it very difficult to manage a rent increase of another 10% as is currently predicted.
  • Renters feel powerless to negotiate rent increases, mostly due to fear of eviction. 
    • 41% of survey respondents reported they had tried to negotiate the amount their rent was increased but were refused, and another 41% didn’t even ask due to the fear of losing their lease.
  • Tenants are scared to report maintenance issues in case the cost of repairs is used to justify additional rent increases.
    • 61% of tenants surveyed reported that they are currently too scared to ask for maintenance or necessary repairs in case that leads to an increase in rent. Respondents stated that they would rather do their own property maintenance or live with a problem, rather than reporting a maintenance issue, due to a fear that landlords or property managers would use the repair costs to justify increasing the rent.

Comments attributable to Alice Pennycott, spokesperson for Make Renting Fair, and Principal Lawyer – Tenancy at Circle Green Community Legal: 

“WA is lagging behind other jurisdictions on rules governing rent increases.

“These findings only strengthen the need for reforms here in WA, not just to limit rent increases to once a year, but to increase the notice period given and introduce some kind of stabilisation mechanism, similar to that used in the ACT”.

“Limiting rent increases to once per year is a necessary and overdue reform to stabilise a volatile rental market that is compounding household insecurity during a cost-of-living crisis. It shouldn’t be solely up to the tenant to try to negotiate the amount of a rent increase – especially when they can be evicted without any reason.”

“The good news is there are examples in other jurisdictions where fair and sensible changes have been made to protect renters from unsustainable rent inflation. 

“In the ACT, rent increases are limited – or capped – and must be tied to the Consumer Price Index, plus 10 per cent. In NSW rents cannot be increased during a fixed term lease of less than 2 years, and the lease must set out the method the increase will be calculated, and statements such as “the market” cannot be used. 

“Unfortunately, while we know there are many landlords that choose not to impose unfair rent increases on their tenants, the current laws allow and even encourage worst practices to continue,  to the detriment of tenants who simply have no power to refuse.”

“Of great concern is that many renters responding to the Make Renting Fair survey reported that the threat of eviction left them with no choice but to accept excessive rent increases or face homelessness. Any reforms to rents therefore must be accompanied by the removal of no reason evictions. 

“We can see from the survey results that tenants aren’t enforcing rights that they already have, for fear of eviction – so without removing no reason evictions, any changes to ‘improve protection’ for tenants will just result in yet another right that they won’t enforce.” Ms Pennycott concluded. 

Comments attributable to Susan Rooney, CEO, Vinnies WA:

“The findings of the latest Make Renting Fair survey are alarming. They show us the extent of the impact the rental crisis is having in Western Australia.” Ms Rooney said.

“Rising rents, insecure tenancies as well as a lack of affordable housing are placing unprecedented pressure on WA families.

“In a state as wealthy as Western Australia, it is simply unacceptable that children have to grow up without access to the most basic necessities like food, clothing and a safe, stable home.

“Our Vinnies financial counsellors are reporting that WA families have been forced to decide whether they can keep a roof over their head, put fuel in the car, attend medical appointments or buy food.

“I call on the State Government to strengthen the protections for tenants to make renting fairer. It would make a very real difference to vulnerable West Australian families and stop them from sliding into homelessness.” Ms Rooney concluded.

Renters who shared their experiences of rent increases included the following stories, which are provided in the report:

“There is no point. If we didn’t sign the new lease with the increase, we would have to try to find another house, there are zero rentals available in our area.” – A renter of 20 years from Busselton.

“I asked if they would consider not raising, or if there were any wiggle room seeing as my partner and I are good tenants and have used our own money and time to make improvements to the landscaping and the reticulation. It has been a tough and expensive few years with my partner going through chemotherapy treatment while simultaneously taking on his aging fathers’ mortgage so that he did not lose his home. There was no room for negotiation.” – A renter in their 30s from Doubleview.

“They gave me only a week’s notice of an excessive rise…But the owner said “everyone else is doing it so why should I miss out on the extra money? And the real estate agent did nothing as that was increasing their percentage as well.” – A renter of more than 20 years from Scarborough.

“They’re allowed to- It was included in our lease that there would be a 6 monthly rent review and we were not in a position to negotiate any aspect of the lease. We had already been applying for properties for 4 months (homeless for 2 months) and every property we applied for included a six-month rent review.” – A woman in her 30s from East Victoria Park.