Submission: CPSA’s Response to the Draft Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019
Currently around one-third of private dwellings in NSW are rented. In the past, renters were primarily young people who rented for only a short time. However, more people are now renting for longer and families and older people are making up a larger portion of tenants. With this continuing growth and variation to the tenancy demographic, it is increasingly important that there is in place a modern and efficient regulatory system for residential tenancies that is responsive to the needs of the community.A draft Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019 (the Regulation) and accompanying Regulatory Impact Statement are now available for public consultation. The proposed Regulation supports the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (the Act).
CPSA welcomes the opportunity to comment on the public consultation draft of the Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019 under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010. CPSA’s interest in this Regulation relates to a number of clauses within the draft.
CPSA agrees that option 2 identified in the Regulatory Impact Statement for the Proposed Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019 is the preferred option.
The proposed regulation includes many changes that are welcomed by CPSA such as the clarification of minor alterations and stricter timelines for smoke alarm repairs and maintenance. However, there are a number of proposed clauses that CPSA suggests require review and alteration before they are implemented.
Proposed Clause 17 Response
CPSA welcomes the attempt to clarify the term ‘minor alterations’ found in Clause 17. It is important for tenants in the rental market to make a dwelling feel like a home. This clause will assist in ensuring this happens. However, CPSA believes that including modifications to increase accessibility for older tenants and tenants with disabilities in Clause 17 will allow older people and people with disabilities to remain in rental dwellings for longer. This is important as delaying a move to a residential facility is of great importance to the wellbeing and quality of life for older people and people with disabilities.
In 2017-18 more people aged 55-64 were paying off a mortgage than those who owned their own home. This has never previously happened. The number of renters aged 55-64 has risen from 14.7 per cent in 2000 to 21 percent in 2018. Home modifications have been found as an increasingly recognised policy response to support the independence of older people in their homes. Modifications to homes have been found to lessen the difficulty of household tasks for older people with mobility impairments, and to improve the ability of older people who are frail or have dementia to engage in self-care and important activities of everyday life.
Examples mentioned in the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 –Statutory Review include grab rails in bathrooms or corridors and access ramps to ease the transition from different surfaces for people with mobility issues. These examples should be included in the list of minor alterations allowed in Clause 17.
In addition to grab rails and access ramps, smoke alarms for people with hearing impairments should be included in Clause 17. There are smoke alarms available that will vibrate a person’s pillow and activate a strobe light. These alterations have the potential to save the lives of tenants with hearing disabilities.
It is essential that alterations that improve accessibility for tenants are included in this clause. The need to request permission to modify a rental home has been found to worry tenants. Tenants fear that requesting such a modification will result in a termination notice or a rent increase adding to the pressures of home insecurity that private renter’s experience. People are renting for longer and at older ages, this is an opportunity to address home insecurity in NSW.
Proposed Clause 18 Response
CPSA welcomes the significant improvement to the added flexibility and safety of domestic violence survivors with the reforms that came into effect on 28 February 2019. The declaration form allows for much greater protection of victims-survivors of domestic violence.
However, CPSA would like to see elder abuse and abuse against people with disabilities included in the domestic violence declaration form so that people who are suffering from abuse and need to move home to mitigate the abuse are able to terminate a tenancy contract without penalty.
Elder abuse occurs where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person. It can take many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse. Evidence presented by the Australian Institute of Family Studies has found that between 2 per cent and 14 per cent of older Australians experience elder abuse every year. This is an issue that is not going away as more than one fifth of the Australian population is estimated to be over the age of 65 by 2050.
The inclusion of elder abuse in Clause 18 of the Regulation would complement the NSW Government’s Ageing Strategy which “highlights the importance of abuse of older people as an issue that affects the safety of older people”.
The inclusion of the abuse of people with disability in Clause 18 would ensure that all vulnerable people in NSW can safely terminate a tenancy contract without fear of penalty.
Proposed Clause 28 Response
The centralised hot water systems in Social housing dwellings are often outdated and inefficient, leading to expensive gas costs. Tenants are not in the position to upgrade these hot water systems and as a result will have to pay expensive gas bills if this exemption is included in the Regulation.
Forcing social housing tenants to cover the cost of gas expenses will also decrease the motivation of Social housing landlords to upgrade inefficient hot water systems.
The more tenants are charged for Social housing costs the longer it will take for financial independence to be restored. The ability to pay rent that remains affordable should be paramount in Social housing dwellings.
CPSA recommends that Social housing landlords should not be exempt from the payment of charges for the supply of gas at residential premises.
 Stark, Susan. ‘Removing environmental barriers in the homes of older adults with disabilities improves occupational performance’ (2004): 37.
 Gitlin et al., ‘Bathroom modifications for frail elderly renters: outcomes of a community-based program’ (1998): 142.
 World Health Organisation. ‘The Toronto Declaration on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse’ (2002): 3.
Kaspiew, Carson and Rhoades ‘Elder abuse in Australia’. (2016): 65-66
 Ibid. 72
 NSW Government, ‘Preventing and responding to abuse of older people (Elder Abuse)’. (2018): 6