Renting in a cost of living crisis: Four key things tenants should know

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun19,2024
Key Points
  • Median rents in Australia are at an all-time high.
  • Rents have increased by an average of 8.5 per cent in the last year, according to CoreLogic data.
  • A Sydney-based expert says that there are steps tenants can take to challenge rent increases.
The cost of living crisis has priced many Australians out of the housing market — leaving them trapped in an increasingly expensive rental market.
“The cost of housing’s gone up so much quicker than incomes in Australia that more and more people are locked out and they find themselves renting for their whole lives,” Emma Power, an associate professor of human geography and urban studies at Western Sydney University, told SBS News’ Cost of Living Secrets podcast.
High rents and limited supply are two factors fuelling Australia’s rental crisis.
Australia’s median rent in April, according to property research firm CoreLogic. Meanwhile, PropTrack found the national rental vacancy rate increased marginally to 1.21 per cent in April — a figure it said was half the level considered a healthy rate of vacancy.

As rents stay high, and cost of living challenges continue, these are the things renters should know about their rights — and what they can do to reduce their costs.

What legal protections do renters have?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than 26 per cent of Australian households rent their homes. Each of Australia’s states and territories has a residential tenancy act, which outlines the rights and responsibilities that both tenants and landlords have to each other.
These can include responsibilities regarding the lease of the property, maintenance, and conditions of the property, as well as protocols around vacating a property.
“Every state’s got a residential tenancies act and that act actually sets out the laws around how many rent increases are possible,” Power said. “It also sets out how much notice the landlord or real estate agent needs to give to the tenants before they can expect the rent to go up.”
Victoria’s rental laws are detailed ; NSW’s, ; Queensland’s, ; South Australia’s, ; Western Australia’s, ; Tasmania’s, ; the Northern Territory’s, ; and the ACT’s, .

How to renegotiate a rental increase

Tenants are allowed to if they think they are too high or unjustified.
“The first thing they can do is actually make sure that the landlord (or) the real estate agent has followed the correct policy in the state that they’re in,” Power said.
If the landlord or real estate agent hasn’t complied with the policy, tenants can tell the landlord or real estate agent to reissue the notice.
“You can also approach your landlord or your real estate agent to appeal against the rent increase,” Power said.. “So if you think that the rent increase is unreasonable, you can get some evidence.”
Evidence can include looking at properties in the area that are similar and finding out the rental history of those properties.

“If you think that the rent is over the odds that the landlord’s asking, then you can use that evidence to appeal to them,” Power said. “Or you can appeal to the consumer tribunal.”

How to save money on energy bills

Renters are also struggling with the increasing energy bills and the conditions of many Australian rentals aren’t helping.
“Housing in Australia is amongst the poorest quality in the world for thermal efficiency, Power said. “They’re not very well-insulated. Our houses are very leaky.”
Tenant advocacy group Better Renting found in a 2022 report than what is considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Another this year found that during the summer months, more than 50 per cent of homes it surveyed were hotter than 25C, the temperature the WHO considers a safe indoor temperature during the summer months.
“It does take people who are renting and landlords to think about this and to talk to politicians and other decision-makers,” Power said.
“There are also some decisions and practices that people can do in the meantime while they’re waiting for hoping for these sorts of changes.”
Those include investing in a door snake to block out air, sealing windows and doors, and purchasing curtains — though Power recommended checking the tenancy laws where you live to confirm whether you need landlord permission for some changes.
“In summer, you can block the hot sun that’s coming in, and in winter it helps the heat to stay in the house,” Power said.
More than 10 million households in the form of a $75 credit on each quarterly bill over the next financial year as part of t.
Consumer advocacy group Choice says turning some appliances (like washing machines and microwaves) and devices (like wireless routers and soundbars) off at the wall rather than leaving them on standby can also save you money.
And the government’s Energy website recommends setting heating between 18C and 20C in winter, and cooling between 25C and 27C in summer.
“For every degree you increase heating and cooling, you increase energy use between 5 per cent and 10 per cent,” it says.

It also suggests shutting doors and vents to unused areas to ensure you only heat or cool rooms that are being used.

Where renters can get help if they’re struggling financially

“The way that rents are increasing at the moment, there are more and more people who are finding themselves in financial stress because of their rents. So it’s a terrible situation and it’s something that we need to tackle,” Power said.
Some Australians may be eligible for rent assistance initiatives from the federal and state governments.
“I’d point people towards a fantastic website called Ask Izzy … that’s a website that can connect you with organisations all the way across Australia that can support with things like accessing food or vouchers or no interest loans with financial counselling,” said Power.
And for more stories head to – a new podcast series from SBS, hosted by Ricardo Gonçalves and Peggy Giakoumelo.

They explore one area where consumers can make savings with an expert in the field. From supermarkets to rents, nutrition to petrol and so much more, learn about the strategies used to get you to spend more, and more importantly, what you can do, to spend less.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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One thought on “Renting in a cost of living crisis: Four key things tenants should know”
  1. What legal protections do renters have in Australia? Are there any specific regulations addressing the current rental crisis mentioned in the article?

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