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Survey data shows impact of ‘no reason’ evictions for WA renters

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Preliminary data released today from a new renters’ survey shows 1 in 4 renters in WA have experienced a ‘no reason’ eviction or the threat of eviction within the past 12 months, and a majority of renters are too scared to assert their rights to repairs, maintenance and even privacy.

The survey, conducted by the Make Renting Fair campaign, has had over 200 responses so far and found:

  • WA’s renter profile is extremely insecure. 
    • Almost one quarter of respondents were on rolling, periodic leases which can be ended without reason with 60 days’ notice. The majority (53 per cent) were on short term 12-month fixed term tenancies that can be ended at the end of the tenancy without reason. Just 4 per cent had a fixed term lease of 2 years.
  • The experience of and fear for unfair evictions is significant. 
    • Over their entire history as a renter more than one in six respondents (15 per cent) had been evicted without any reason. 
  • Fear of eviction without reason is translating to renters being too scared to assert their rights. 
    • When asked about their experience of making a request for repairs or maintenance in their current rental, 37 per cent reported being concerned the request could get them evicted, and 63 per cent were concerned the request might make the landlord less likely to renewal their lease. 
  • The experience of retaliatory eviction is significant.
    • 16 per cent of respondents reported they had a lease not renewed due to a request of their landlord during the tenancy. 
  • The fear of no reason eviction is forcing tenants to live in homes with significant health, safety, and comfort issues. When asked about their current rental, 
    • 56 per cent reported issues with leaks, dampness or mould
    • 49 per cent reported issues with locks, doors and windows
    • 55 per cent reported difficulty keeping the property cool or warm
    • 32 per cent reported issues with hot water
    • 31 per cent reported storm or rain damage
    • 27 per cent reported a lack of fly screen; and 
    • 17% reported major structural repairs were needed
  • The fear of no reason eviction is also forcing tenants to assert their right to quiet enjoyment and even endure invasions of privacy.
    • 61 per cent of respondents are having a rental inspection every three months (currently allowed under WA tenancy laws) but 67 per cent are unhappy with the frequency of inspections and on average over half report feeling stressed or anxious about the frequency of inspections and anxious about the landlord taking photos or videos during the inspection. Alarmingly, 12% have caught a landlord or property agent going through my private belongings, cupboards or drawers. 

Comments attributable to Alice Pennycott, Principal Lawyer – Tenancy, Circle Green: 

“These survey results reaffirm why it is so important we have stronger tenancy protections for renters in WA. These results will unfortunately be unsurprising to the majority of West Australians, as a community we are well aware of the significant disadvantage renters face in finding and maintaining secure accommodation, overwhelmingly through no fault of their own.”

“These stories from members of our community highlight the complete imbalance of power between tenants and investors, and they paint a clear picture of people suffering in silence, in properties with significant repair issues, health and safety concerns, and egregious breaches of their privacy, because the alternative is being made homeless without any recourse.”

“The stories add to the abundance of evidence already available to demonstrate the importance of contemporary legislation reflecting community needs and expectations. We hope the McGowan government listens to these stories and uses this opportunity to ensure this legislation reflects what is happening in our community, and the fact that these changes will impact one-third of the West Aussies who rent their homes.”

“The absence of minimum standards combined with extremely insecure tenure is resulting in an overwhelming number of renters too scared to assert their right to a home that is in a reasonable state of repair. This has to change”

“The stories are not just from a small number of transient renters on their way through to home ownership – these are Western Australian families with young children, retirees, people with disability; all of whom are likely to be renting for a significant period and in many cases, renting for life.”

“We knew maintenance and repair issues were a huge problem for renters, but didn’t know just how bad it was – these results show two thirds of renters are having problems with leaks, dampness or mould, and one in three are having issues with hot water in their current rental. If we extrapolate these findings to all WA renters it literally means hundreds of thousands of renters are living in substandard conditions – and they’re too afraid to ask to get it fixed for fear of eviction.”

“So long as our laws continue to allow evictions without any reason, Western Australian families are going to continue to put up with uncomfortable or unsafe conditions just to keep a roof over their heads.” 

– Ends –

Numerous stories and comments from renters are also available in the report attached. 

Renters available to provide interviews can be arranged and include:

Amy – “The owner sold property on 5 April 2022 , I tried so hard to get a rental and had no luck , so when the day happened for us to be out , my 16 yr boy stayed at his brothers and is still there, my 14 yr old boy stayed at his uncle’s and is still there, and my 3 little ones ages 6 , 4, 2 had to stay at their grandma;s house , and I lived in my car for 3 weeks. After that it was no longer possible for my 3 little ones to be at there Nana’s, so from then we have been couch surfing at relatives houses close to their school they go to. Me and my children have never been separated and it’s been so stressful trying to find a house rental, I’m losing all hope and our morale has gone down hill immensely. I’ve applied for over 70 rentals all to be unsuccessful, I’ve done all the right things and rent history is good , references good but still nothing. Me and my children are miserable and we just want our family back together again, we all miss each other terribly.”

Vanessa – “After 5 years we were thrust into a chaotic rental market. I haven’t slept for a month, I have anxiety and we were making back up plans to live in an industrial location (workshop) if we weren’t successful in finding a new place. It has been almost impossible to find somewhere to go next.”

Leanne 6169 – “I’m extremely stressed as agreement to pay rent arrears was made but then after requesting maintenance, a breach and termination notices were issued.”  

Polling details: The survey was conducted in Septermber-October 2022 by Make Renting Fair. The sample size is n=206. Survey participants were from the Perth metropolitan and regional areas, and representative age and tenure length. The results are considered preliminary.