Report says 50 per cent of WA tenants live in a home needing repairs

Stock image.
Stock image.

HALF of WA tenants are living in a home in need of repairs, according to a report by Choice, National Shelter and the National Association of Tenant Organisations.

Disrupted: the consumer experience of renting in Australia found nationally 51 per cent of tenants were living in homes that needed repairs. In WA, that figure was 50 per cent.

Since moving into their current home, 78 per cent of tenants had reported issues with their bathrooms, including mould, 57 per cent with the kitchen and 38 per cent with the bedroom.

Hot water, security and pests were other common problems.

Tenants were reluctant to ask for repairs or request improvements, with almost seven in 10 (68 per cent) concerned that a request for repairs would lead to a rent rise and 44 per cent worried it would result in an eviction.

They also expressed concern about insecure tenancies and rental affordability.

Nationally, nearly nine out of 10 tenants (88 per cent) are on leases of one year or less, with 29 per cent on periodic agreements.

Two in five tenants did not expect to be living in the same home in 12 months’ time.

In WA, 53 per cent of tenants were on a one-year fixed term lease, with 11 per cent on six-month agreements and 26 per cent on periodic leases.

Only 8 per cent were on agreements of two years or more.

When it came to rental affordability, 62 per cent of tenants expressed concern about the cost of their rent.

In WA, 35 per cent would find a 10 per cent increase in rent difficult or very difficult to afford.

REIWA president Damian Collins expressed concern over the issues raised in the report, but said the cases highlighting tenants being extremely dissatisfied with their rental experience represented only a small proportion of the private rental market.

According to the Choice report, while there are more than 2.6 million households renting in Australia the data for the report was collected through an online survey, with 1547 respondents and the results weighted to represented the Australian renting population.

Mr Collins said while the institute was taking the issues raised in the report seriously, it was important to remember this was not reflective of the experience of the vast majority of tenants.

“There is no doubt that the shifting economic climate is having an effect on the rental market, with tenants having increasingly complex needs, however these cases of dissatisfaction are a minority in a system that is working well for the overwhelming majority,” he said.

He cited a recent study by the Bankwest Curtin Economic Centre, The Private Rental Sector in Australia: Public perceptions of quality and affordability, which said only 5 per cent of tenants would rate their relationship with their property manager as poor or terrible compared with the 69 per cent who said their experience was good or excellent.

He said this report’s findings suggested that overall the rental market was working well for the majority of tenants.

When it came to repairs, Mr Collins said having basic repairs carried out should not result in a rent increase.

They should also be carried out in timely manner.

“Major renovations such as a new kitchen and bathroom would likely warrant negotiation between both parties as the lease came up for renewal,” he said.

“In situations like these, an experienced property manager is needed to ensure both the owner and tenant knows their rights and responsibilities to ensure the best possible outcome for both parties.”

While recent market conditions in the eastern states may have seen rentals in short supply, causing some of the affordability anxieties felt by tenants, Mr Collins said in WA the market was in favour of tenants with the median rent price having remained at $350 per week since April 2017.

“Tenants are far less likely to experience inappropriate rent increases in the current WA market,” he said.

There was also nothing stopping tenants from securing longer-term leases.

“While long-term rental leases remain uncommon, there is nothing legislated in the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) that prevents tenants from entering into long-term leases,” Mr Collins said.

“In fact many landlords prefer a long-term tenant, but it is the tenants who request shorter lease terms in their applications for a rental property.

“In order for long-term leases to become more common, this will require an attitude shift between both owners and tenants to create a new normal.”

Mr Collins said an upcoming review of the RTA would provide the perfect opportunity to update the system to better meet the needs of tenants and property owners.