More property investors needed now - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views
Real Estate

By Antonia Mercorella – CEO, Real Estate Institute of Queensland

The Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) has a proud history of working closely with the State Government on key issues that impact the real estate industry as well as the wider community. So, it certainly doesn’t help when minor parties such as the Queensland Greens decide to recycle policy positions from years gone by and disguise them as a necessary response to tight vacancy conditions we’re currently witnessing across most of Queensland. I’m of course referring to the Green’s recent Private Member’s Bill – Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation (Tenants’ Rights) & Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021.

With Queensland’s rental market currently under enormous pressure as more people choose to both remain as well as make Queensland their new home, it’s critical we continue to attract property investors to improve rental supply and keep pace with demand so as to maintain rental affordability. What we don’t need is ludicrous rental reform proposals like we’re seeing from the Greens. It’s completely unrealistic to expect that lessors will continue to invest in Queensland real estate if faced with untenable arrangements that don’t allow them to protect the value of their asset and strips them of fundamental decision-making powers and rights.

Some of the key proposed items in the Bill include:

  • Capping rent increases to once every 24 months and by no more than CPI annually;
  • Scrapping “no grounds evictions” thereby preventing lessors from being entitled to end a fixed term tenancy at the end of its agreed term;
  • Restricting lessors’ rights to end tenancies, effectively allowing lessors to give a notice to leave only on the grounds of required occupation by the property owner (or owner’s close family) or on account of major renovations to be made to the property. The Bill also excludes the right for owners to issue notices to leave where they intend to sell the property;
  • Banning rental bidding; and,
  • Allowing tenants to make property alterations without permission from the lessor.

The most damaging reform proposed by the Greens is the abolishment of a lessor’s right to not renew a tenancy agreement at the end of its agreed term. In practice, this would allow a tenant to remain in a tenancy indefinitely and for as long as they wish unless the lessor can establish one of two grounds under the Greens proposal. Effectively, a lessor could only issue a notice to leave if

they or a family member intends to occupy the property or if major renovations are to be made to the property.

This reform has been cleverly disguised by the Greens as the abolishment of “without grounds terminations or evictions.” What they’re describing is inaccurate and misleading because under Queensland law, lessors cannot evict tenants for no reason during a fixed-term tenancy agreement. By tying the hands of lessors behind their backs, what the Greens are really seeking is for tenants to have the right to stay in a property until it suits them, to make modifications as they please and keep pets in the property without seeking consent. Meanwhile, lessors won’t be able to even request tenants pay market rent.

As a result, no lessor will choose to invest in Queensland property under these proposed laws. Investors have a range of options open to them, including shares and other asset classes. If their rights to manage an investment property are removed they’ll simply choose to invest elsewhere. What we need is a regulatory framework that provides security for both tenants and lessors. A balance must be found but it won’t be if the Greens have their way.

Queensland already has some of the country’s most comprehensive tenancy protections in place. State laws already contain rent bidding prohibitions and strict rent increase rules and protections. What this shows is that the Greens have a legitimate lack of understanding of what’s already contained within current Legislation.

The Greens further fail to understand the fact that rental caps don’t do anything to resolve the reason rents are rising, which is because there are more people who want to live in Queensland than there are dwellings for them to currently live in. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Queensland has enjoyed a net inflow of about 25,000 people over the last 12 months. That’s the highest level of net interstate migration Queensland has seen for around 20 years. We’ve also seen fewer people leaving Queensland, with departures at their lowest level since December 1994. Furthermore, in addition to high internal migration and low departure rates we’ve also seen the return of around half a million expats since the onset of the pandemic.

Ultimately, as migration continues and more Queenslanders remain, there will continue to be fewer rental properties. Introduce rental caps and there will be even less stock available as it vastly reduces the incentive to supply future rental housing. The ripple effect will cause renters to be further affected.

Housing by virtue is a consumer need, and follows the same basic laws of economics as other consumer needs: When the demand for a product exceeds supply, the price will rise until the quantity demanded is equal to the amount available. At some point that demand will reach its limit and a shift in momentum will see rents decrease. Like most things, the property market is subject to ebbs and flows.

What we need are more incentives to better support both increased and ongoing property investor activity in the Queensland property market and the contributions they make to the state economy. What we don’t need is reckless and damaging rental reforms as proposed by political parties that don’t offer any benefit Queensland’s rental market whatsoever.