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Property agents failing to stop rent bidding

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Rent bidding in NSW has been illegal for 12 months, but one-quarter of real estate agents still aren't following the rules.
Rent bidding in NSW

A significant number of real estate agents are ignoring rent bidding laws designed to support fairness in the rental market.

‘Rent bidding’ refers to a process when agents or landlords ask for offers above the advertised rental price. It was outlawed by the NSW Government, led by then-Premier Dominic Perrottet, in December 2022.

A recent review found almost 25% of agents weren’t complying with the laws.

Rent bidding in NSW

New laws in 2022 also outlawed advertising rental prices as a range (rather than a fixed figure), or with a minimum price (i.e. ‘from $500’). However, tenants can still choose to make a higher offer on a property.

South Australia, the Northern Territory and ACT all banned rent bidding this year. Western Australia – the only jurisdiction in Australia left to outlaw rent bidding – has introduced legislation to ban the practice, which is expected to pass.

Extra protections

Premier Chris Minns had proposed a ban on ‘secret’ rent bidding, which would require landlords and agents to notify all prospective tenants of a raised offer, to allow them to make a counter-bid.

However, Minns abandoned this measure over concern it wouldn’t gather enough support to pass Parliament.

In August, legislation for agents was extended to include a ban on landlords and third-party rental application providers from inviting rent bidding as well.

Enforcement

Since the new rent bidding rules were introduced, the NSW Government has sent over 300 letters warning agents of their conduct, before issuing fines.

A total of 51 fines worth $54,450 were handed out from March to April. These were due to breaches of the advertising rules for rent bidding.

Another compliance program was rolled out in September. Officials monitored the conduct of 162 agents at open houses and advertising for properties under the program.

Findings

The compliance checks found almost one quarter (23%) of agents were in breach of rent bidding regulations.

25 fines were handed out, costing agents a total of almost $27,000. These were all for breaching advertising restrictions.

Three real estate agents are under formal investigation over claims of soliciting rent offers higher than what was advertised.

Landlords

Private landlords have been subject to separate compliance programs, largely conducted by the NSW Government by monitoring online platforms such as Gumtree.

33 landlords were found to be non-compliant with the rules during a recent check.

NSW Government response

NSW Rental Commissioner Trina Jones said she was monitoring the results of compliance programs to evaluate if the rent bidding reforms are effective.

Jones hasn’t ruled out adding further regulations to crack down on unruly agents and landlords.

The Government has received 70 complaints related to claims of illegal rent bidding since the practice was outlawed.

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