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New research project: regulation of residential tenancies and impacts on investment

Posted by on May 4th, 2021 · Private rental

Residential tenancies laws across Australia are on a broadly common ‘consumer protection’ model, but with many differences in the details, including coverage of marginal tenures, notice periods, termination grounds and processes. States’ and territories’ reform processes have mostly been unco-ordinated, and significant divergences and gaps have opened up in the law, particularly for interstate landlords.

Reform processes have also had to contend with claims that reforms negatively impact rental investment. The available evidence suggests, on the contrary, that tenancy law reform does not strongly affect investment, but the evidence base needs to be updated to consider changes in the market (e.g. the rise of short-term letting) and expanded to consider how other policy factors (e.g. in financial regulation and taxation) affect the profile and scale of rental investors.

A new research project, led from City Futures Research Centre and commissioned by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, will 1) review the current state of residential tenancies laws across Australia; 2) refresh the evidence base regarding the policy and market factors that shape rental investment; and 3) present options for a new national tenancy reform agenda.

The research approach will employ a mix of methods. We will conduct a topical analysis of each jurisdictions’ residential tenancies laws and recent reforms, using legislation, caselaw and policy documents. The topical analysis will be supplemented by insights from interviews with key stakeholders, including regulators, tenant organisations and real estate institutes, as well as less-heard stakeholders, such as the new Build-to-Rent (BTR) managers and property technology intermediaries.

Quantitative and qualitative methods will be used to investigate factors affecting investment. Using address-level rental bonds data for NSW and Victoria, we will conduct a ‘difference-in-differences’ statistical analysis to test for changes in net sector entries (investment) and exits (disinvestment) around events such as tenancy law reform announcements. We will also conduct an online survey of rental investors to gauge the scale and jurisdictional spread of investors’ portfolios, their intentions regarding holding, developing and selling, and their disposition to regulation. These activities will be supplemented by key stakeholder interviews, including with BTR representatives, financial regulators and property finance experts, to identify other policy factors shaping individual and institutional rental investment.

From all the evidence collected, the research will present options for a national tenancy reform agenda, both in terms of the substantive content of such an agenda, and the various means by which it could be pursued in Australia’s federal system of government.

Research team: Dr Chris Martin (chief investigator), Prof Kath Hulse, Prof Eileen Webb, Dr Laura Crommelin, Dr Sharon Parkinson, Dr Milad Ghasri, Ms Liss Ralston and Ms Zoe Goodall.

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