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MEDIA RELEASE: CAPA calls for NSW student accommodation loophole to be closed

8 Aug 19

CAPA calls for NSW student accommodation loophole to be closed

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) has called for an end to the loophole which allows student accommodation to charge excessive fees, impose unfair notice periods, and avoid urgent property repairs.

Student accommodation has an exemption to complying with residential tenancies legislation in New South Wales. In our submission to the review of NSW Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019, we suggest that the exemption be re-evaluated to ensure students do not lose their rights as renters.

Currently, the exemption is applied to residential colleges and halls that are located on the grounds of an educational institution, owned by the institution, or contracted by the institution. Instead of being covered by the Residential Tenancies legislation, the relationship between the student and their exempt landlord is defined by a contract, which is written by the landlord and may impose unfair conditions.

There is no recourse available through NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for student tenants to resolve disputes with their exempt landlords. Financial disputes between students and accommodation operators can have unfair impacts on the student’s enrolment status, visa status, and ability to graduate, as found by the Redfern Legal Centre.

We are particularly concerned by the actions of private owners or operators of student accommodation. In New South Wales, one in five student accommodation beds are commercially managed but located on the campus of an educational institution.

The current exemption can create circumstances that are deeply unfair for students, who are often vulnerable due to their young age or their citizenship status. For many, this is their first experience renting, or their first experience renting in Australia. These students may not realise that the contract conditions are onerous and they are unlikely to pursue legal action should there be a breach of contract.

“Due to the improper or incomplete dissemination of information, it is hard for international students to understand the rules and regulations around tenancy. Further, it can create stressful situations for them, both mentally and financially, if loopholes are used to charge students excessively or to force them to leave their accommodation altogether at short notice,” says CAPA International Officer, Devendra Singh.

“Historically, the exemption to tenancy legislation has existed due to the pastoral care aspect of university accommodation,” says CAPA National President, Natasha Abrahams. “However, some commercial operators are able to enjoy this exemption to rip off students, while providing little of the pastoral care that is the basis of this exemption.”

For comment:
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993