App-alling rental rip-off exploiting struggling families
Written on the 30 November 2021 by The Advertiser
Adelaide tenants pressured to pay landlords via rental apps are being charged an extra $500 per year.
Welfare groups want a ban slapped on rent payment apps which some tenants are being forced to use at the cost of $500 a year.
By law, the apps – which add around $10 a week to rental bills – can only be used if landlords and tenants agree, and tenants must be given a fee-free payment option.
But Uniting Communities spokesman Mark Henley said the organisation’s financial councillors across Adelaide were reporting “many” tenants were complaining about the unwelcome imposition of app payments without their consent.
“With crazy high rental prices already, any increase in costs is going to hurt lower and modest-income renters,’’ he said.
The rapidly rising costs of housing and rental housing markets have already given windfall gains to landlords and their agents, so there is no sane justification for passing yet another cost on to struggling tenants.
“For the many people we see who are managing their finances to the cent, a $10 per week increase in rental costs is significant.”
Uniting Communities’ Mark Henley says some low-income families are being pressured to use rent payment apps at the cost of another $10 per week.
The extent of use of the apps is unknown, but two major real estate franchises are known to be using them in Adelaide.
One prominent real estate company was forced to back down this week when a tenant threatened action in the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The tenant did not want to be identified and the Sunday Mail chose not to name the company to avoid confusion, because it has a policy of not using third-party apps.
A company spokesman said only one office of around 30 was using the app and it would ask that office to stop doing so.
Greens MLC Robert Simms wants the law amended to protect tenants.
Greens MLC Robert Simms said he would move to have legislation passed to strengthen efforts stamp out the practice.
“It’s appalling to see this cost burden being shifted on to tenants,’’ he said.
“I am looking at what can be done to strengthen the Residential Tenancies Act to outlaw this kind of conduct.”
Real Estate Institute of SA chief executive Barry Money said every agent had to provide a fee-free payment option.
SA Council of Social Service spokesman Ross Womersley said the main benefit of the current system was for agents, not tenants.
“If this is in the interests of the agents then they should bear the costs in the commissions that they already receive for undertaking the role of agent from owners,’’ he said.