Canberra rent increase calculator stops illegal landlord increases

If you are a tenant in Canberra, have you ever tried to calculate if your landlord’s rent increase was within the legal limit?

Well, 24-year-old Michael Turvey did and was unimpressed with the plethora of convoluted resources and dearth of information available to everyday Canberrans.

Amazed that an online “rental calculator” didn’t already exist, Michael took matters into his own hands and spent a few weekends building one, which he says “wasn’t incredibly difficult. “.

“A few months ago I was personally looking into whether my rent was going to go up, how much it was going to go up,” Michael said.

“I started with existing resources – I looked at what the government had, I looked at what the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) had made available, I looked at the advice of legal aid – and it was all very vague and very confusing.”

Finally, Michael understood the Da Vinci’s Code-like the system, which he says the average person “won’t know how to do”.

“I needed to go to the ACAT website, which gave me a formula and linked me to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) website, where to find the 10 sheet voucher different spreadsheets, then get this spreadsheet, download it, find the tab on the right, there were six of them, find the Canberra rent column, then find the CPI time trend for that column said Michael, clearly exasperated as he recounted his complicated investigation.

“So that was crazy already, but this only works if it’s been 12 months since your last rent increase or start of rent. If it was anything other than 12 months ago, that number only gives you an annual moving average.

“If you want to find anything other than a 12-month average, you have to go to the ABS data finder tool and select the items by hand. So suffice it to say, the process is incredibly complex and completely inaccessible. to most people.

Calling on his friend Andrew for a helping hand, the duo embarked on their project by requesting the ABS dataset, which is available through an application programming interface (API).

“I just built the front end, tested it with a few people, and set it up. Honestly, it wasn’t incredibly difficult…I put it together for a few weekends in my spare time. It seemed so easy and so wild that no one had done it before,” Michael said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it didn’t exist, because although it took some work, it wasn’t very difficult, and a professional developer could have done it in a few days. [ACT] government could have done it easily.

“We have very good rent protection laws in the ACT, we’re very lucky, but they’re not helpful if people don’t know about them, or if they know about them but can’t access them to understand what is allowed and what is not.

Michael is a member of the Greater Canberra Group, a housing advocacy organisation, but he says this venture was completely independent and voluntary, stemming entirely from his own experience scouring the internet for a simple solution.

Photo: Kerrie Brewer.

Since developing his rental calculator, Michael has seen around 2,000 people use his invention, proving that the demand for answers from tenants is there; it was just finding a clear answer that was the problem.

“The average person won’t know how to do this, or have the time to do it, especially if they feel pressured or have demands made of them,” he said.

“Most people take the raise because they don’t know they don’t have to, so you have to look. If you call the Legal Aid hotline they will try to help you figure out if it is an allowable amount or not, but usually most people don’t even know that.

Michael has been renting in Canberra since he was 17, and over the past eight years he says he’s been through “a lot” of rentals and had his fair share of landlords lacking in good intentions.

“A lot of tenants have bad stories about their experiences. Personally, I’ve never had an illegal rent increase, but I know people who have been told or told they have to accept something they don’t need to accept” , did he declare.

“I’m part of the Canberra Renters Facebook group which is a really good support resource and after doing this for myself I saw people all the time saying ‘I just got this rent increase, I don’t know if it’s allowed but the owner and the agents tell me I have to accept it or I’ll be kicked out” and of course none of that is true.

“You don’t have to accept it [rent increase] and you cannot be expelled, at least not immediately. There’s a six-month turnaround that people aren’t aware of.

Personally, Michael has known owners often denying repairs they needed to make, and one house in particular that had black mold “everywhere” that the owner initially refused to have removed. And, he said, the standard insulation and heating issues that many Canberranians are facing right now.

“We built a system on the premise that renting is something you do until you buy a house and it’s something you do if you prefer flexibility and freedom over stability and the long-term investment of owning a property,” Michael said.

“If people are forced to rent, as many are, they should have security and be sure they have rights. In terms of repairs, rent increases after starting a lease, evictions…every tenant is assumed to have a fallback option or alternative and for many people this is not the case.

“This [rental calculator] should have been something that was there a long time ago. In general, laws are something that should protect people and should be complemented by communication.

At 24 and with a solid job in Canberra, Michael said it was unlikely he would ever be able to buy a house in the city where he really loves to live.

“I don’t have the ability to get a very high guarantee guarantor, so if I stay in Canberra, I’m looking at renting for the rest of my life. In some cities you can rent for life, and that can to be a very affordable, safe and healthy experience, but that’s not something you can do in Canberra,” he said.

“I would like to start a family at some point, but I don’t feel comfortable doing so while I’m still in a situation where a landlord might ask me to leave for no particular reason, or where I can’t. not count on them to make repairs or when the rent could increase considerably.

“I really love Canberra, but that’s the biggest way we fail as a city. People can’t afford to live here. We do so many things right as a city, but that’s something something we’re really, really not doing well.

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