Imagine if the power imbalance between renters and landlords shifted. Imagine if tenants had as much information about their landlords as landlords knew about them.
With more than 80,000 tenancy issues each year reported to the Tenants Union of NSW there is a clear demand for renters to have access to safe, affordable and secure homes.
To address this, today a team from Urbanism in the Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning announced the launch of the "Know Your Landlord" project which takes a disruptive approach to tenants’ advocacy by creating a website that projects a rental market where renters have the same amount of background information on their landlord as their landlord asks of them.
The researchers – Head of Urbanism Associate Professor Dallas Rogers, Dr Sophia Maalsen and Research Fellow, Dr Peta Wolifson – have developed a website that illustrates how a more equitable housing system could be within reach by shedding light on existing problems facing renters.
Australia’s rental landscape is disproportionately skewed in favour of landlords. Renters often give up an alarming amount of personal data just to secure a place to live; our project seeks to recalibrate this imbalance and show that a fairer future is possible.
Partnering with the Tenants Union of NSW, Tenants Queensland and Tenants Victoria, “Know Your Landlord” was developed as an integrated advice platform that navigates the rental system from start to finish. It is a site that is intended as an advocacy tool to bring attention to the large amounts of data collected on tenants and the inequality of the rental sector.
The research team has also partnered with popular content maker Jack Toohey – whose content focuses on Australia's housing crisis – to assist with the promotion of “Know Your Landlord” to encourage users to test the products.
"There's a pervasive belief in Australia that inability to access quality housing is a reflection on an individual, which really couldn't be further from the truth,” Toohey said.
“By teaming up with academic experts to create educational and engaging content, we hope to bring awareness to the fact that housing is a systemic issue, not an individual one, and an issue that can (and should) be changed.
“Change comes through enough people understanding the problems and believing in the solutions, and I'm excited for this campaign to be a part of that.”
Australia is in the middle of a rental crisis. Data from the 2023 Anglicare Rental Affordability Snapshot reveals that 2023 was the worst year for rental affordability; only 15.9 percent of properties across Australia were deemed affordable for a family of four working full-time on the minimum wage. For a single parent working full-time on the minimum wage, just 0.7 percent of properties were affordable. And just four properties across Australia were affordable for those on JobSeeker payments; none were affordable for those on Youth Allowance.
The research team identified issues and social stigmas faced by renters and are calling for changes to protect renters via information transparency, stricter regulations to ensure tenant protection, data privacy, rental property history and insights, landlord information such as experience and responsiveness, bond security and doing away with the practise of rent bidding.
To learn more about the "Know Your Landlord" project and how you can be a part of this important conversation, visit https://knowyourlandlord.app/ or follow the hashtag #KnowYourLandlord on social media platforms.
Declaration: “Know Your Landlord has been created by housing researchers at the University of Sydney funded by the Australian Research Council.