Imagine that you are renting a home and one day, you randomly receive a notice to vacate. To add insult to injury, the notice states that there is ‘no specific reason’ for your eviction. This might sound a bit dramatic, but it is a reality for many Victorian tenants.
The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) currently allows landlords to evict tenants for no reason if they are on a periodic tenancy. While it would be easy to assume that these notices are only used in rare circumstances, you would be mistaken. According to a recent report by Consumer Affairs Victoria, 1 in 11 landlords reported having ended a tenancy using a ‘no specified reason’ clause¹.
Studies show that the fear of eviction alone is significant: According to a recent study of Australian renters, almost a quarter of renters have held off on making a complaint to their landlord for fear of being evicted².
Moving house under any circumstances is difficult from an emotional and financial standpoint. Tenants do not hold equal bargaining power when seeking a rental property, constrained by factors such as location and proximity to jobs, schools, community and affordability in addition to a highly competitive rental market. While an eviction means a temporary reduction in return for the landlord, it results in a significant financial and emotional loss for the tenant as they are forced to uproot their lives in a short period of time. When a tenant is given no reason as to why they have been evicted, the emotional toll of the experience can be devastating.
With more people renting for longer than ever before, the risk of eviction without reason makes it near impossible for tenants to feel comfortable in their homes. The Make Renting Fair campaign is calling on the Victorian Government to abolish ‘no reason’ evictions without weakening protections elsewhere.
In Victoria, there are over 20 legislated reasons why a landlord can evict a tenant. These include where the tenant has breached their duties, or where the landlord wishes to use the property in another manner such as move in themselves. If a tenant is on a period lease or is at the end of a fixed-term lease, the landlord is also able to evict them for no reason. Landlords often use these notices to side-step the safeguards that specified reasons provide, leading to unfair, discriminatory and unnecessary evictions.
The ability to evict tenants without reason virtually removes tenant protections against unfair eviction and significantly weakens their fundamental human right to a secure home.
Tenants in other countries around the world such as France and Germany cannot be legally evicted without a valid reason. In Dubai, if the landlord wishes to evict a tenant upon the expiration of a current lease agreement, there are only four legally permissible reason it can do so⁴:
- If the owner wants to demolish the property for reconstruction or add new development that would prevent the tenant’s fair use of the property,
- If the property requires renovation that would be impossible to undertake while the tenant is occupying the premises,
- If the owner of the property wishes to use it for themselves or their next-of-kin assuming they do not own another suitable property, or
- If the owner wishes to sell the property.
Dubai’s residential tenancy laws go one step further in these cases, requiring landlords to provide notice of eviction effective 12 months from the date that the current lease expires.
It is not unreasonable to limit landlords to a strict list of legislated reasons as to why they are evicting their tenants. While a rental property is an investment for the owner, they must always remember that it is also their tenants’ safe haven. Eviction should always be the option of last resort.
Protecting tenants against unfair evictions will go a long way to making renting not only fair, but more humane.
- Rental experiences of tenants, landlords, property managers, and parks residents in Victoria: Final report, 17 May 2016, EW Sweeney (contracted by Consumer Affairs Victoria)
- Unsettled: Life in Australia’s private rental market, Choice, National Shelter and NATO, February 2017
- Behind on your mortgage, Australian Securities and Investments Commission, 29 May 2017, www.moneysmart.gov.au/managing-your-money/managing-debts/problems-paying-your-mortgage/behind-on-your-mortgage
- Everything you need to know about EREA rental property laws, Property Finder AE, www.propertyfinder.ae/blog/evrything-you-know-about-rera-rental-property-laws