The New South Wales government is yet to issue a single fine to real estate agents caught promoting rent bidding since the practice was banned late last year, despite issuing hundreds of warnings in the same period.
Data from NSW Fair Trading shows despite multiple complaints and hundreds of warnings, no agent has been punished for breaking new rules designed to prevent them from soliciting higher rental bids from would-be tenants.
The rules, introduced in December, make it illegal for real estate agents to solicit or invite offers above the advertised price for a residential property.
Fair Trading has received six complaints about agents soliciting higher rent offers but said it had taken an “an educative approach” to the new laws, issuing 300 warnings to agents. It was “planning future audits and enforcement action”.
“Ongoing monitoring of advertisements for compliance has also occurred and inspectors have alerted agents responsible for non-compliant advertising to ensure they understand their responsibilities under the regulations,” the department said.
Breaches of the regulations can result in an $11,000 fine for a corporation or $5,500 for an individual. The offences may also result in the issuing of an on-the-spot penalty infringement notice of $1,100 for a corporation and $550 for an individual.
Amid soaring rental prices and tight housing supply, tenants’ rights have emerged as a major election issue ahead of the state election on 25 March.
Despite the failure to issue any fines, premier Dominic Perrottet claimed on Friday that the rent bidding ban was “already improving affordability for those looking for rentals”.
But the Greens, who are pushing for a rental freeze across NSW, criticised the government’s failure to enforce the new regulations.
“The NSW government’s supposed rent bidding ban last year has too many exceptions and not nearly enough teeth,” the party’s housing spokesperson, Jenny Leong, said.
“We need an outright ban on rent bidding, in any form, alongside an immediate rent freeze and rent controls in NSW.”
On Friday, the NSW government announced a policy to ban no-fault evictions on rolling leases, joining both the Greens and Labor.
The proposed “reasonable grounds” model for evictions on rolling leases was part of a suite of government housing measures including extending notice periods for ending fixed-term leases from 30 to 45 days and introducing optional lease agreement periods of three and five years.
Perrottet said the terms of a “reasonable grounds” no-fault evictions model was still to be worked out, with the government committing to consultation with “key stakeholders including landlords as part of an election policy package for renters”.
The Greens have already announced they will push for an end to no-fault evictions, while NSW Labor has promised to tighten rules around how they’re applied.