COTA Victoria commends the Victorian Government for its commitment to undertake a comprehensive evidence-based review of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (RTA). We note the focus of this consultation and submission is to comment on key areas identified as potential legislative changes that could be made to the RTA. We strongly endorse a number of options presented and make comment on areas where we believe improvement or reconsideration needs to be given to achieve better outcomes for older people, living in rental accommodation. This submission does not cover all options and we defer to those stakeholders better placed and informed to make comment.
Each year COTA Victoria conducts a survey on issues of most concern to older people to guide our policy and program work. Our 2016 survey nominated access to affordable, secure and appropriate housing as the greatest concern for older people (44.25% of respondents). There are increasing numbers of older people in private rental. The impact of regular rent increases, uncertainty of tenure, low fixed incomes and no minimum housing standards has an accumulative and direct correlation with health outcomes and quality of life for older people and other vulnerable groups. Unsuitable housing is linked with poor physical and mental health. There are limited housing options to support older people ageing in place in Victoria. The rental market is not accessible to many older people and current restrictions in modifying homes further exacerbates a limited supply of appropriate housing.
COTA Victoria views the ‘commercial environment’ of private rental housing in need of recalibrating greater obligations on landlords to provide safe, secure, appropriate, and affordable housing. Tenants are viewed as consumers within this ‘commercial environment’. COTA supports strengthening regulations to enable tenants to be treated fairly and improved provisions for the protection and security of tenants’ rights to live in appropriate homes with minimum standards.