People with Disability Australia (PWDA) welcomes this opportunity to provide feedback on the NSW Government’s Improving NSW rental laws consultation paper (July 2023).
PWDA is Australia’s peak cross-disability Disability Representative Organisation and is also funded to provide cross-disability systemic advocacy on behalf of people with disability in New South Wales under the Department of Communities and Justice’s Disability Advocacy Futures Program. Nationally 4.4 million Australians have a disability, approximately 18% of the population. In NSW 18.1% of the population have a disability, equivalent to 1,372,400 residents.
People with disability experience discrimination and poorer life outcomes across all life domains when compared with those without disability. For example, people with disability are at greater risk of becoming homeless as they receive lower incomes and have less engagement with the private housing market when compared with those without disability.
We also note that support received through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) does not include rental support in the private market, and the NDIS itself does not provide housing except for the extremely limited number of people with disability eligible for Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA). This number is estimated to be only 15,700 people nationally.
People with disability may also have specific housing and support needs. Homes are often not designed to be accessible and can be difficult and expensive to adapt to suit individual accessibility requirements. This is a particular challenge when people with disability are renting in the private market. There is an acute need in NSW for an increase in the supply of affordable housing that is constructed to comply with accessibility standards.
Response to proposed Government changes
PWDA is largely supportive of the Government’s proposed changes to rental laws in NSW as outlined in the consultation paper. These changes include:
- ending ‘no grounds’ evictions
- a model to make it easier to keep pets. A renter can have a pet as a default, and after informing the landlord the landlord can object within 21 days and take it to the Tribunal
- clarifying the legislation to limit what information can be collected from applicants, how that information is used and disclosed, and how the information is stored and destroyed
- exploring options to protect applicants from discriminatory behaviour where automated decision-making is used
- improving access to information to help renters know when a rent increase is ‘excessive’, and;
- exploring options to increase rental affordability such as requiring landlords to prove a rent increase is not excessive, and amending the legislation to better identify criteria for measuring when an increase is excessive.
PWDA particularly supports measures that restrict excessive rent increases, as being something that will benefit all renters in NSW, not just those with disability.
We note that the ongoing and extreme rent increases seen across the country impact most harshly on those on lower incomes such as people with disability, a significant proportion of whom rely on a government income support payment as their primary source of income.
The impact on wellbeing that rent increases have been causing to people with disability is concerning. Nationally as of March 2023 there were just 66 private rental properties affordable to a person whose primary source of income was a Disability Support Pension. Compounding the crisis is that many of these properties are unlikely to meet accessibility standards making them unsuitable.
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022, People with Disability in Australia 2022. Accessed 2 August 2023 https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/people-with-disability-in-australia/contents/about; Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2019, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings. Accessed 2 August 2023 https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/disability/disability-ageing-and-carers-australia-summary-findings/latest-release#disability.
 Kayess, R and Sands, T, 2020. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Shining a light on Social Transformation. Sydney: UNSW Social Policy Research Centre; Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2019, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings. Accessed 2 August 2023 https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/disability/disability-ageing-and-carers-australia-summary-findings/latest-release#disability; Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (n 1).
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (n 1).
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022, People with disability in Australia 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/3bf8f692-dbe7-4c98-94e0-03c6ada72749/aihw-dis-72-people-with-disability-in-australia-2022.pdf.aspx?inline=true. Accessed 8 August 2023
 See e.g., Maryam, G, Murphy, C, Valenta, L, Bertram, N and Maxwell, D, 2021, Adaptable Housing for People with Disability in Australia: A Scoping Study. Sydney. Australian Human Rights Commission, Sydney. Accessed 2 August 2023 https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/disability-rights/publications/adaptable-housing-people-disability-australia-scoping-study
 See e.g., Ibid; The National Construction Code 2022; Disability (Accees to premises – Buildings) Standards 2010 (Cth).
 Anglicare Australia, 2023, Rental Affordability Snapshot. National Report. Fourteenth Edition. Accessed 2 August 2023 https://www.anglicare.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/Rental-Affordability-Snapshot-National-Report.pdf.
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (n 1).
 Anglicare (n 6) 8.
 Anglicare (n 6) 10.