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Our story

Since our grassroots beginnings in the 1970s we have advised, educated and improved conditions for tenants and worked towards ensuring their rights are upheld and respected.

How we started

In 1974, activist tenants in Royal Court in Parkville formed a tenants association to tackle their landlord. Rents were rising, despite the landlord’s failure to carry out repairs. They soon realised that the root problem was the outdated tenancy legislation of the day. 

Tenant-landlord relations were principally governed by common law and by the Landlord and Tenant Act 1958, which had as much to say about standing corn and barley as the rights of  tenants. 

At this time awareness of poverty in Australia was growing. The 1972-1975 Commission of Inquiry into Poverty led by Ronald Henderson established that tenants were among the most likely to experience poverty. 

The Royal Court tenants took their story to the media and in the process raised the issue of tenancy law reform in Victoria. Support and momentum steadily grew, leading to the formation of the Tenants Union of Victoria. The first informal legal advice service for tenants was established by Michael Salvaris at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in October 1974. 

Tenants as consumers

There had been other attempts to organise tenants and change tenancy law, but none were sustained. The rights of tenants were frustrated by owners’ property rights. One factor that was crucial to success in the 1970s was the marriage of tenants’ rights to the broader consumer rights movement. Consumer rights had gained acceptance and the idea that tenants, as consumers, are entitled to basic consumer protection became easier to support in public policy. 

Once formed, the Tenants Union of Victoria —with other community organisations—was instrumental in having the Community Committee on Tenancy Law Reform established, which ultimately led to the Residential Tenancies Act of 1980. 

Four decades of reform

Since inception we have advised as many individual tenants as possible while working towards long-term change for the benefit of all tenants. We successfully campaigned to have caravan park residents included in legislation in 1987 and rooming house residents covered in 1990. After a protracted campaign of more than 10 years, an independent Residential Tenancies Bond Authority was established in 1997. 

Since that first informal advice service more than 45 years ago, we have assisted more than half a million individual tenants. 

New laws follow latest campaign

The year 2017 marked two milestones. We changed our name to Tenants Victoria and we created the Make Renting Fair campaign to advocate for the safety, stability and privacy of the state’s two million renters. Instead of being a temporary form of housing, renting is now a long-term or permanent option for many. 

This campaign, which brought together more than 10,000 individuals and 70 organisations, helped bring about the most significant reforms in Victorian rental laws in two decades with the passing of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018. Big reforms include abolishing ‘no reason’ notices to vacate, introducing minimum property standards that address health and safety concerns and making it easier to rent with pets. 

Ware playing a critical role in monitoring and advocacy as the new laws are implemented to make sure they live up to their promise, continuing our work to advise, educate and improve conditions for tenants and represent their collective interests in legislation and policy making 

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