It’s no secret that in South Australia right now, housing affordability is a hot topic. Whether you’re buying, renting or couch surfing your way to your home, there’s a lot of uncertainty out there.
Alongside increases in the cost of renting – some as high as 15 per cent, and the interest rate spikes by the Reserve Bank, the homelessness crisis has reached new levels in SA.
ABS data showed there was a 19 per cent increase in those experiencing homelessness between 2016 and 2021. The Hutt St Centre welcomed 165 people on March 7, 2023, setting a new record for the most people through its doors in one day.
For South Aussie renters, with the state having one of the lowest property vacancy rates in Australia at 0.6 per cent and the median rent at an all-time high, finding a place to call home can be a stressful situation.
What is being done to improve rental affordability in SA?
South Australia is joining other states in banning rent bidding to create a fairer market for renters. This ban is just one of multiple changes coming into place to improve the state of the rental market.
In February, the state government introduced its plan for ‘A Better Housing Future’ which includes initiatives to protect tenant’s private information and lower the upfront costs of renting.
The name’s Bond, Tenancy Bond
The prospect of saving for a bond can be as intimidating as a blank screen for a writer.
Currently, landlords can claim residential bonds equivalent to six-weeks rent if their weekly rent is $250 or more. If the property is below $250 per week rent, only a four-week bond can be requested.
Since most Adelaide properties are now above this minimum, many are handing over the pricier bond. This can make it harder for lower income-earners.
To remedy this, the state government is raising the $250 bond threshold to $800 per week to ensure only a four-week bond is required for most renters in SA.
In metro Adelaide, the median bond is currently $2790. Under the new law, this will drop down to $1860.
Timeframes to let go of tenant information
Ready your digital dumpsters because the new laws say landlords, agents or third parties handling tenant applications can only keep unsuccessful applicant information for 30 days after a successful tenant has entered into their lease agreement.
If you’re a tenant still looking for a home, you can consent to the landlord, agent or third party to keep your information for up to six months for the purpose of helping you with future applications.
For successful tenants, your information that was provided when applying for a home will need to be destroyed within three years of the tenancy ending.
What about private rental assistance?
If you’re struggling to meet upfront rental costs or need help maintaining accommodation, the state government’s Private Rental Assistance Program offers financial support.
The eligibility criteria for the program has been reviewed so more renters can access it, including raising the weekly rent limit for this support from $450 to $600 per week.
The Household Cash Asset Test has also been increased from $5000 to $62,150 per household. This will allow people on lower incomes to hang on to their cash reserve, which they can potentially put towards owning their own home in the future.
Approximately 400 additional households will become eligible for the rental assistance program under these changes.