Editorial: A review of Victorian legislation must not be allowed to reduce the rights of renters

Finding a home is not an easy thing to do.

If there is one conclusion to be drawn from the reality facing so many people these days it is that life for many is getting tougher.

It’s not enough any more to just have a job. With rents rising as everything else is doing likewise, especially utilities such as gas and electricity, it is a struggle.

You don’t have to be at the absolute margins of society to be facing great difficulties.

That has become clear in recent years in the Border region with housing affordability – or more to the point, the decline in it – contributing to a rise in the rate of homelessness.

Put simply many people don’t have a permanent roof over their head, instead moving between stop-gap measures such as couch surfing with friends. And so if you are able to get into the private rental market – and for many it’s not an easy thing to do – you treasure the life it can provide.

It’s about stability and security and a safe place for yourself and your family.

You could be the most impeccable tenant, taking pride in your rental house and flat, and yet still too easily having to live with the uncertainty of what might happen in future.

Experts in the area of homelessness have decried the fact that renters in Australia do not enjoy the obvious benefits of genuinely long-term lease agreements that are the way of life in Europe.

They see a move towards this approach, coupled with greater investment in both social and private housing stock, as a way to provide a better future.

Because the way the market is trending now, rental – especially private rental – will be almost as hard to come by as buying your own place. This is part of the reason why concern has been raised about possible changes to the Residential Tenancies Act.

The legislation is being reviewed by the Victorian government and the fear is that this will result in changes that could reduce safety, stability and privacy for private renters.

Proposals that concern the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service and Beyond Housing are ones that they say could result in quicker and easier evictions, changes allowing landlords to impose additional lease conditions and giving them the ability to place restrictions on tenants having guests to stay.

Wise heads need to prevail to ensure any changes enacted do not discriminate.