EDITORIAL: Push for change to ‘no grounds’ eviction law

IT ISN’T uncommon that the laws of a state or country should take some time to catch up with the expectations, or lived experience, of its citizens.

Really, all of the major debates and disagreements around our polity demonstrate this very basic point.

The struggle for change, and the resistance to it, are hallmarks of democracy.

Usually though, these struggles are over laws that are, or have once been, deeply ingrained in our cultures.

It’s perhaps not so often that a law less than 10 years old becomes so quickly outdated – and out of step – with the people it applies to. 

But that is what advocates both in and outside of parliament argue about the 2010 Residential Tenancies Act. 

The Act, which was introduced under the former NSW Labor government as a change to the previous 1987 Act, made it easier for landlords to terminate tenancies under so-called “no grounds” provisions.

Previously in NSW, a landlord could terminate a tenancy under no grounds provisions as long as 60 days notice was provided.

However tenants could appeal the decision to what was then known as the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal.

Labor’s re-write of the Act extended the notice period to 90 days, but removed the right to appeal.

The change was intended to increase certainty of access for landlords, and the review of the Act – which is still being considered by the government – recommended maintaining the provisions (while recommending the government consider other ways of improving security of tenure in the rental market).

But a recent change in policy from Labor – now in opposition – suggests a change could be possible.

The NSW Greens support the abolition of no grounds eviction, and will move an amendment to the Act when it comes before parliament later this year. That would not be enough to pass the legislation, but it would at least make it part of the discussion.

The Hunter Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service offers one solution for how to make it happen without restricting access to property for landlords. 

It suggests introducing redevelopment or intent for occupancy as a grounds for eviction.

Time will tell where the government lands on that idea.

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