With NSW rental vacancy rates at an all-time low, a disability advocate has shared the story of a woman being forced to shower with a hose because she was unable to find a home that accommodated her wheelchair.
After a lengthy search for a rental property within her price range, the Dubbo woman, named Shaye, secured a home thanks to a call out on social media. While the home didn’t specifically suit her needs, Shaye considered finding the home at all to be “a win”.
The woman’s story was shared by a disability advocate who gave evidence at a lower house inquiry on Friday after fears proposed rental reform could legitimise rental bidding.
“She now has to shower with a hose because the property that she is in is not completely accessible,” said Policy and Disability Advocacy NSW’s Communications Lead, Cherry Baylosis.
“But that for her is a win, just to have a roof over her head where she can afford to pay the rent but she lives with the stress of potentially having an increased rent.”
Speaking at the committee, Dr Baylosis said she believes that if Shaye had been forced into a “rental auction system,” she would likely be priced out of a home.
She made the comments to a committee set up to examine proposed rental reforms which would require agents to notify all applicants if they receive an offer higher than the advertised rental price.
While the legislation was designed to increase transparency in the applications process, the specific clause has also initiated fears it could unintentionally increase the prevalence of rental auctions.
“She practically wasn’t able to (enter the rental market) throught the standard way of just applying, she had to do it privately, as in not through an agent,” said Dr Baylosis.
Her fears echoed concerns made by other welfare bodies.
Ahead of the inquiry’s start, 19 housing, rental and welfare advocacy groups wrote to the committee to call for legislation that would prevent landlords, agents and tenants from offering, soliciting or accepting rents higher than what is advertised.
CEO of peak body Homelessness NSW said less than 1 per cent of rental properties were available for people in the lowest income brackets.
“We have concerns that the current drafting will have the unintended consequences counter to the intention of the bill,” she said.
“We can actually push forward for reform that bans all bidding and can set us up for strong clarity so that people have a good understanding of what they’re going to pay and then they can be assessed on their merit for the property.”
Deputy Secretary of the Better Regulation Division in the NSW Department of Customer Service, Nastasha Mann said concerns that the provisions could “drive up prices” had been raised, however she believed this was a “hypothetical system”.
“I suppose until we sort of see how it works. I think we’re all speaking in the hypothetical,” she said.
“I think it would be worthwhile, you know, taking the next step and actually seeing whether some of these unintended consequences actually do come to fruit.”