News and Views

In just over three weeks Tasmanians are heading to the polls to elect a new Government.

We have written to all parties likely to have representation as well as some independents who have focussed on housing to respond to the nine policies we believe are crucial to improve housing availability, affordability and security for renters.

Enclosed with the letter candidates received a questionnaire. If you are a candidate and would like to respond to policy asks, send an email to

We will publish responses after 13 March 2024.

Find the content of the letter below:

According to the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics Census data, there has been a 11 per cent increase in the number of Tasmanian households renting, from 51,961 in 2016 to 57,762 in 2021.1 Despite the increase, housing for renters is frequently of a poor quality, insecure and unaffordable. In our experience, many landlords ignore requests for repairs and maintenance and tenants are fearful to complain about their housing, because of the very real risk of a rent increase or eviction.

As well, renters have become increasingly diverse in terms of age, income and stage in life as the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute has observed:

Once seen as a transitional housing tenure for young people between leaving the family home and becoming home owners, there are more private renters at mid-life and more private renters with children (40% of private rental sector households). Importantly, there has been an increase in both lower and middle/higher income households in the private rental sector. Australians are renting for longer periods — a third of private renters have been renting for 10 or more years.

We believe these issues will only become more pronounced over the coming years, as a growing number of Tasmanians rely on the private rental market for their housing. We therefore seek your support for the following reforms, which will provide better protection for renters and ensure access to quality, stable and affordable housing for all.

1. Safe, secure and affordable housing for all

Commit to building 10,000 public housing properties over the next decade

Housing in Tasmania has worsened since the last State Election in 2021 with more homeless, more people waiting for social housing and more people in housing stress. We urgently need increased supply of public housing to act as a break on skyrocketing rent increases and to ensure that everyone has a home.

2. Security of Tenure

Require genuine reasons for end of lease evictions

With one-third of Australian renters having rented for ten years or more,2 it is important that stability is assured. Renters with security of tenure are able to remain embedded in their local communities. Security of tenure provides continuity in work, schooling and community engagement as well as ensuring that disadvantaged groups avoid further social exclusion. Renters with security of tenure are also able to assert their rights without fear of eviction. Currently, this is not the case, with a number of reports published by CHOICE finding:3

  • around half of all tenants worry they will be blacklisted from future tenancies; and
  • 44 percent of tenants are concerned that a request for repairs could result in eviction; and
  • 14 per cent of tenants refuse to stand up for their rights because of the possibility of landlord recrimination.

Evictions also significantly impact renter well-being.4 Renters are more likely to report poor mental5 and physical6 health than non-renters. Children subject to regular forced moves often have disrupted schooling, and as a result are more likely to exhibit anti-social behaviour in later life.7 Finally, it is expensive, with each move costing a renter on average $4,000.00.8

The ability of landlords to evict renters for no other reason than ‘end of lease’ does not mean that they do not have a reason for terminating the agreement. It simply means that the landlord does not need to disclose the reasons to the renter. It opens up renters to the threat of retaliatory eviction (whether actual or implied), it potentially facilitates unlawful discrimination, and it operates to dissuade renters from enforcing their ostensible rights under the Act.

We strongly believe that if there is no change to the use of the property, renters should be able to maintain their tenure unless the landlord can prove that they have breached their residential tenancy agreement as is the case in the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Victoria.9 New South Wales has also committed to abolishing no cause evictions.10 It is also worth noting that National Cabinet committed to ‘A better deal for Renters’ which included “developing a nationally consistent policy to implement a requirement for genuine reasonable grounds for eviction”.11

3. Rent Controls

Limit the amount of the rent increase to CPI and/or a fixed percentage.

Tasmania’s rent control laws are weak. Currently, the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 (Tas) provides that a landlord can increase the rent by as much as they like provided that the last increase was at least twelve months prior and the tenant has been provided with 60 days’ notice.12 The only protection against excessive rent increases is that a tenant may apply to the Residential Tenancy Commissioner to determine whether the rent increase is ‘unreasonable’.13 In assessing the reasonableness of the increase, the Residential Tenancy Commissioner must take into account “the general level of rents for comparable residential premises in the locality” and “any other relevant matter”.14 With median rents across Tasmania having increased by almost fifty percent over the last five years, a landlord can

justify a rent increase of this amount for no other reason than that it is market rent. Or, in the words of the Residential Tenancy Commissioner “the Act does not require or enable me to regulate the market, simply assess rents in line with what the market is currently achieving”.15

It is clear that market mechanisms are not working. We strongly believe that rent increases occurring during a tenancy agreement should be subject to controls as is the case in the Australian Capital Territory. In the ACT rent increases are limited to a rate based on inflation. The onus on contesting the rent increase is dependent upon the quantum. If the proposed increase is above the proscribed rate the owner has the onus of establishing that the increase is justified, and if below, the tenant must demonstrate that the increase is excessive.16

Another model that could be considered is that proposed by the Tenants’ Union of New South Wales (TUNSW) who have recommended that an independent agency or body have the ability to determine rent increase thresholds taking into account stakeholder feedback and other relevant factors.17 As noted by TUNSW, the advantage of this model is that “this would allow for thresholds that are responsive to local conditions, as well as being able to factor in a range of data and measures – such as general wages and other relevant factors”.18

4. Standard Forms and Lease Agreements

Introduction of Standard Forms and Lease Agreements

Many lease agreements contain provisions that purport to exclude, restrict or modify the operation of the Act. A number of years ago, a review by our lawyers of their files found a number of provisions contained in residential lease agreements that were inconsistent with the Act, including:

  • That the renter is responsible for the repair or replacement of whitegoods that came with the property; and
  • That the renter accepts the property in its current condition; and
  • That the renter must allow access to the property to carry out a valuation or appraisal; and
  • That the renter not cause a disturbance or annoyance to anyone else; and
  • That the renter must have the carpets cleaned by a professional cleaning company that has been approved by the landlord; and
  • That the renter is responsible for all costs associated with lodging a debt with a debt collection agency including the debt collector’s costs.

The lack of standardisation means that many renters believe that they are forced to comply despite the clause/s being unlawful under the Act. As well, prospective renters often raise their concern at the different application forms used by landlords and real estate agents with a recent report finding that 60 per cent of renters surveyed believed that they were required to provide an excessive amount of information.19

A number of years ago we carried out a review of all real estate agencies who make their application forms publicly available. Our investigation found that there is information requested of prospective renters in some application forms that may be unlawful. There is also information required that we believe is discriminatory, amounts to an invasion of privacy or is simply unnecessary. Examples include:

  • The requirement that prospective renters provide a criminal history check; and/or a credit check; and
  • The refusal of renters who require Colony 47 financial assistance to pay the bond; and
  • The refusal of any prospective renter who has an outstanding debt; and
  • The requirement that prospective renter list their financial commitments; and
  • The requirement that prospective renters state their marital status; and
  • The requirement that prospective renters provide a minimum of four referees.

Much of this information is irrelevant to the tenancy or the ability of renters to maintain the tenancy successfully. Renters who feel uncomfortable about providing information will often contact us requesting advice about their right to refuse. The lack of a standard application form means that there is practically very little that can be done. The renter must provide the information required or face the very real risk that the application will be passed over in favour of someone who is prepared to provide the information.

A standard residential lease agreement for renters and application form for all prospective renters will significantly reduce the likelihood of unlawful, discriminatory and superfluous information.

5. Pets

Allowed unless landlord has good reason for their exclusion

Include ‘assistance animal’ in list of exceptions

The Act currently provides that a tenant is not allowed to have a pet without the landlord’s permission.20 In practice, most lease agreements include a no pets clause meaning that the landlord does not have to give any thought to the renter’s request. As a result, many renters with pets are forced to look for rental accommodation in areas less accessible by public transport or to surrender their pet, with recently released Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) research finding 60 per cent of Australian households have a pet and about 15-25 per cent of surrenders are because their owner cannot find an accommodating rental property.21 The same AHURI report also cited a study that found that property damage in households with pets was no more likely than damage without pets.22

We strongly believe that the Act should be amended so that all renters have the ability to have a pet unless the landlord has reasonable grounds for their exclusion.23 This is already the law in the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, the Northern Territory and South Australia.24

It should also be noted that the current exclusion of pets from rental properties does not apply to guide dogs.25 In our opinion, this should be broadened to include ‘assistance animals’. This would make the Act consistent with the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (Tas) and the Disability Discrimination Act (Cth). The failure to expressly include ‘assistance animal’ has meant that we have had to

institute legal proceedings on behalf of a number of tenants who have required such animals for their medical conditions.26

6. Sustainable Homes

Strengthen minimum standards and energy efficiency standards

All renters have a right to live in a safe, secure and healthy home with an affordable supply of energy. Sadly, many renters do not live in healthy homes with cold weather in Australia killing at least 2,600 Australians every year.27

Last year, a report entitled Cold and Costly – Winter Researchers’ Experiences of Winter 2022 tracked temperatures and humidity in rental properties across Australia.28 The report found that Australia’s housing stock “is not built to cope with winter cold… [contributing to] higher energy costs, poorer respiratory and cardiovascular health and adverse mental health impacts”.29 The report noted that the World Health Organisation recommends 18°C as the minimum healthy indoor temperature and yet in Tasmania, rental properties were below the WHO recommendation 21 hours of the day.30 Finally, research undertaken by the Australian Council of Social Services and the Brotherhood of St Laurence indicates that low-income households spend 6.4 percent of their income on energy, compared to high income households paying an average of 1.5 percent.31

We strongly believe that all rental properties should meet basic energy efficiency standards which minimises the amount of energy required to heat or cool a home. Minimum energy standards for rental homes, including insulation, appropriate heating and cooling and draught-proofing, will ensure that residential tenants across Australia benefit from healthier homes and lower power bills.

In Victoria, following recent reforms, all appliances, fittings or fixtures which supply water, electricity or gas must meet minimum efficiency ratings.32 In the ACT it is now a requirement that all rental properties be fitted with ceiling insulation.33 And in New Zealand, landlords must install floor, wall and ceiling insulation, where is it reasonably practical to do so.34

7. Minor Modifications

Allowed so that mobility aids, child safety gates, picture hooks and showerheads can be installed

Providing renters with the ability to make minor modifications without seeking the landlord’s consent will ensure increased comfort and safety. However, as the law currently stands, renters are unable to affix any fixture to the premises or make any alteration or addition to the premises without written consent from the landlord.35

There are three main reasons why renters want to make minor modifications to their homes:

  • to make the premises more homely

Renters who are in longer-term tenancies often wish to make the premises feel more homely by making changes such as changing the colour of the walls, installing a vegetable garden or hanging picture hooks;

  • to allow for ageing and disabilities

Older renters or renters with a disability may need to affix mobility aids to the walls, or install ramps at their front or back doors;

  • to make the premises safer or more energy efficient

Renters may wish to make the premises more energy efficient by installing efficient appliances or safer for children by affixing furniture to the walls or providing greater protection to family violence survivors by installing security cameras.

Most Australian jurisdictions allow renters to make minor modifications either without the landlord’s consent or by mandating that a landlord cannot unreasonably refuse.36 We strongly believe that the law should be reformed to provide that renters can make minor modifications to their homes.

8. Stronger regulation of short-term accommodation sector

Entire properties that are not principal place of residence returned to long-term residential tenants

Airbnb and other short-term accommodation providers must be better regulated. Hundreds of private rental properties have been removed from long-

term residential tenants across Hobart with a AHURI report finding that entire properties that are available to rent as short-term accommodation and available to rent for 60 days or more is equal to twelve percent of the entire private rental market in the Hobart City Council municipality; the highest rate in the country and one of the highest rates of any capital city anywhere in the world.37 Unsurprisingly, the proliferation of short-term accommodation properties in the Hobart City Council municipality and throughout Tasmania has seen rents rise and supply dry up with the AHURI report concluding “even a modest reduction in Airbnb listings (about 17 per cent) is associated with a significant reduction in rents”.38

Entire properties should be banned from the short-term accommodation market to encourage owners to return those properties to long-term residential tenants. A more balanced policy would see homeowners able to rent out spare rooms in their own homes whilst returning entire properties to the private rental market.

9. Tenant Advocacy

Funding increase to improve service delivery in North-West Tasmania

The Tenants’ Union of Tasmania currently comprises 4.3 full-time equivalent staff to provide information, advice and representation to renters across Tasmania. Current funding levels are not sufficient to meet the demand for our services. Our total recurrent funding of approximately $350,000 per annum from both the State and Commonwealth has remained unchanged in real terms for many years despite the significant increase in demand for our services. For example, as noted earlier, the most recent Census data found that that there had been an 11 per cent increase in the number of residential tenants in Tasmania from 52,000 in 2016 to 58,000 in 2021.

As well, analysis provided to the review of the National Legal Assistance Partnership noted that we receive the least funding of any tenant advocacy service in Australia. When State and Commonwealth funding is combined, the analysis found that Tasmanian renters receive $7.83 per rental household in tenant advocacy compared to Queensland with $14.95, the Northern Territory with $16.34 and New South Wales with $16.46 per rental household. Victoria tenant advocacy services receive the most funding with $19.08 per rental household.39

For the last five years we have received $75,600 to fund a northern office which is located in Launceston. The funding is not enough to pay for a full-time lawyer and more importantly is inadequate to provide representation for the Northern half of Tasmania.

We are seeking an additional $95,000 per annum in core funding which will be used to employ an additional 0.8 FTE lawyer. The new position will mean that we can provide significantly more representation to renters living on Tasmania’s North-West Coast.



  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Tasmania QuickStats. As found at (accessed 27 February 2024).
  2. Kath Hulse, Sharon Parkinson and Chris Martin, Inquiry into the future of the private rental sector (Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Final Report No. 303: August 2018) at 8-9.
  3. CHOICE, National Shelter and the National Association of Tenant Organisations, Unsettled: Life in Australia’s private rental market (February 2017). See also CHOICE, National Shelter and the National Association of Tenant Organisations, Disrupted: The consumer experience of renting in Australia (December 2018).
  4. Rachel Ong ViforJ, Ranjodh Singh, Emma Baker, Rebecca Bentley and Jack Hewton, Precarious housing and wellbeing: a multi-dimensional investigation (Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Final Report No. 373: February 2022).
  5. John Cairney and Michael Boyle, Home ownership, mortgages and psychological distress, Housing Studies (2004) 19(2) 161-174.
  6. Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Do housing conditions make a difference to our health? (AHURI Research and Policy Bulletin, No. 6: April 2002).
  7. Roger Webb, Carsten Pedersen, Pearl Mok, Adverse outcomes to early middle age linked with childhood residential mobility, American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2016) 51(3) 291-300.
  8. Tenants’ Union of NSW, Eviction, Hardship and the Housing Crisis (February 2022).
  9. Sections 92-97 of Schedule 1 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (ACT). Also see section 91ZZD of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic). In South Australia, the Residential Tenancies (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2023 which was passed by both Houses of Parliament in November 2023 requires that a lease termination is made on prescribed grounds. The prescribed grounds will be set out in regulations which are yet to be published.
  10. Government of South Australia, Review of SA’s renting laws (Consumer and Business Services). Also see Tawar Razaghi, ‘NSW to ban no grounds evictions for renters on rolling leases’ Sydney Morning Herald, 3 March 2023.
  11. Prime Minister of Australia, Meeting of National Cabinet – Working together to deliver better housing outcomes (16 August 2023). As found at (accessed 27 February 2024).
  12. Section 20(3) of the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 (Tas).
  13. Section 23(1) of the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 (Tas).
  14. Section 23(2) of the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 (Tas).
  15. Alexandra Humphries, ‘Residential Tenancy Commissioner rules 70 per cent rent increase “reasonable”’, The Mercury, 24 February 2018.
  16. Section 68(3) of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (ACT) sets out the factors that are taken into account including: (a) the rental rate before the proposed increase; (b) outgoings or costs of the landlord in relation to the premises; (c) services provided by the landlord to the tenant; (d) the value of fixtures and goods supplied by the landlord as part of the tenancy; (e) the state of repair of the premises; (f) rental rates for comparable premises; (g) the value of any work performed or improvements carried out by the tenant with the lessor’s consent; and (h) any other matter the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal considers relevant.
  17. Tenants’ Union of New South Wales, The worsening rental crisis in Australia, submission 51.
  18. Ibid at 5.
  19. CHOICE, National Shelter and the National Association of Tenant Organisations, Unsettled: Life in Australia’s private rental market (February 2017) at 12. The report can be accessed at (accessed 27 February 2024).
  20. Section 64B of the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 (Tas).
  21. Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Housing and housing assistance pathways with companion animals: risks, costs, benefits and opportunities (AHURI Final Report No. 350 at 20). As found at at (accessed 27 February 2024).
  22. Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Housing and housing assistance pathways with companion animals: risks, costs, benefits and opportunities (AHURI Final Report No. 350 at 32). As found at at (accessed 27 February 2024).
  23. Examples could include council regulations that excluded backyard chickens or the rules of a body corporate.
  24. Sections 71AE and 71AF of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (ACT); Section 65A of the Residential Tenancies Act 1999 (NT); Division 5B of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic) and; Division 6A of the Residential Tenancies Act 1995 (SA).
  25. Section 64B(2) of the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 (Tas).
  26. As defined in section 9(2) of the Disability Discrimination Act (Cth). Examples include a dog trained to predict when its owner was likely to have an epileptic seizure and a pet bird who alleviated the side effects of its owner’s mental illness.
  27. Antonio Gasparrini, Yuming Guo, Masahiro Hashizume, Eric Lavigne, Antonella Zanobetti, Joel Schwartz et al, Mortality risk attributable to high and low ambient temperature: a multicountry observational study, The Lancet Volume 386 Issue 9991.
  28. Joel Dignam and Bernadette Barrett, Cold and costly: Renter Researchers’ Experiences of Winter 22 (Better Renting, Canberra: August 2022).
  29. Ibid at 1.
  30. Ibid at 2.
  31. Australian Council of Social Services, Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Australian National University, Energy stressed in Australia (October 2018).
  32. Consumer Affairs Victoria, Efficiency standards for replacement appliances and fixtures.
  33. ACT Government, ‘Rental properties subject to minimum insulation standards in rental homes’. Media Release, 5 April 2023.
  34. New Zealand Government Tenancy Services, Insulation in rental properties.
  35. Section 54 of the Residential Tenancy Act (1997).
  36. Section 64 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic); section 71AB of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (ACT); Section 66 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW); Section 208 of the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (Qld); Section 55A of the Residential Tenancies Act 1999 (NT). In South Australia, the Residential Tenancies (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2023 amended section 70 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1995 (SA) to allow minor modifications. The Bill passed both Houses of Parliament in November 2023 and come into force on 1 March 2024. In Western Australia, the Government introduced the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2023 into Parliament. The Bill, which is yet to be debated will allow renters to make minor modifications.
  37. Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, ‘Marginal housing during COVID-19’ (AHURI Final Report No. 348). As found at (accessed 27 February 2024).
  38. Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, ‘Marginal housing during COVID-19’ (AHURI Final Report No. 348). As found at (accessed 27 February 2024).
  39. Tenants’ Union of New South Wales, Submission to the Independent Review of the National Legal Assistance Partnership (October 2023). As found at (accessed 27 February 2024).