Tenants' Rights, By God!

I'm a big fan of "Modern Guru" in the Good Weekend, where dilemmas of modern manners ("What's the appropriate response if a friend invites you over for an exquisite dinner...then requests $50 a head for the meal?") are explored. 2010 is a confusing, crazy place. We need help. But there was one correspondent recently who made my well-mannered blood boil. She asked was it okay, since her household no longer received delivery of the local paper, for her to help herself to copies from the letter boxes of rented homes? It's not as if those who rent care about the local community.

This was in contrast to the tears of envy I felt when reading of five-year leases in Europe. One third of NSW households are now rented, up from one quarter ten years ago, but there's still a sense that renters are the scum of the Earth. Everyone wants to own their own home, surely; it's the great Australian dream, so the only people who rent must be young or poor.

New changes to tenancy laws have been proposed, the first major changes in twenty years. There's still very little to protect tenants, apart from an increase in the number of days a landlord has to evict a tenant from 60 to 90. There are not the changes we need.

What we need is a new culture when it comes to tenancy. There are many reasons why people choose to rent. As someone who has lived in seperate rental properties for five and seven years respectively, a great start would be long leases, along with the rights to make minor changes to the property. Not all tenants are transient. Long leases, available to tenants who choose to take them up and with fair provisions for rent increases, would benefit everyone - less work for agents, less cost for landlords, more security for tenants. With such a high proportion of tenants in the population, We're not all just renting because we're too poor to buy - as for my family, we think that we can give our children a better life without a mortgage; we may move interstate in the next few years; and what with rising interest rates, the inevitable property crash, or both, you'd have to be an imbecile to contemplate entering the property market right now. (We don't want to be these people - whom I'm sure thought everything would work out for them. I wonder whatever happened to them in the GFC?).

Anyway, we're staying put. And caring deeply about the local community while we're here - more so than most McMansion owners who are to busy struggling with the mortgage to plant trees, volunteer, petition for local services or anything else. I just wish I could paint the bedroom.

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