The Victorian Greens have announced their commitment to a Victorian Housing Ombudsman to settle disputes across the housing sector in a free, fast and fair manner. This includes in rental and retirement housing, in relation to builder workmanship in new homes, and short stay accommodation.
The Greens have also announced a commitment to cap rents at inflation, saying that if rents were capped a decade ago, renters today would be paying $50 less a week, saving $2600 a year.
Recent inquiries into the rental and retirement housing sectors have all recommended that a Housing Ombudsman be established.
Consumer Affairs Victoria’s Fairer Safer Housing - Review of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 found the system for resolving disputes in rental properties hugely favours landlords over tenants. In its 2015-2016 Annual Report, VCAT reported that just 7% of its approximately 60,000 residential tenancy cases for the year were brought by renters.
The Victorian Parliament’s Inquiry into the Retirement Housing Sector found that some retirees are being fleeced by their retirement housing operator through unfair charges and returns on their property, but people are too afraid to speak up, let alone take the matter to court, for fear of bullying or losing even more financially.
Quotes attributable to Lidia Thorpe MP, Victorian Greens Spokesperson for Consumer Affairs:
“Currently the housing system hugely favours developers and those with the money to hire fancy lawyers and go through a stressful, expensive and lengthy court case. These people can run roughshod over everyday people and it's not fair.
“People need a free, fast and fair dispute resolution service for their homes, whether they are a renter or home owner. This would create a better housing system and better quality of life for many people. It would also free up VCAT, fast-tracking cases that do need to be at court.
“We have an Energy and Water Ombudsman, and a Public Transport Ombudsman. Evidence shows we also need a Housing Ombudsman to ensure people can get free, fast and fair outcomes.
“The Housing Ombudsman will also help home owners. If you discover shoddy workmanship in your build, renovation or new home, instead of facing massive costs for repairs or for a court case, the Ombudsman can resolve the issue at no cost and in accordance with the law and common sense.
“Rents are skyrocketing and people on a low income are being forced to use most of their income on just keeping a roof over their head. Rent capping works. If rents were capped at inflation decade ago, people would now be paying $50 less a week for rent. That would make a massive difference for a young person on Newstart Allowance and rent assistance, who only gets $342 per week in total.