Tougher penalties are needed to stop rogue landlords taking advantage of international students who source accommodation before they arrive in Australia, says a new report by the University of New South Wales Human Rights Clinic. 

The PIE News explains that accommodation exploitation is also a problem for students after they arrive, with digs not as advertised or non-existent, and utility and repair bills unreasonably high. The ‘No Place Like Home’ report also highlights cases of mid-lease rent increases and unexpected evictions. It examines the vulnerabilities of international students within the housing market in Sydney, based on survey responses and direct interviews. 

Bassina Farbenblum, one of the report’s authors, explains: “We have a really unfortunate situation at the moment where it makes good business sense for rogue landlords to exploit international students,” adding that although the report is based on the Sydney market, problems exist Australia-wide.

Student Health, Financial Security, and Study Outcomes Negatively Affected by Rogue Landlords

One report interviewee illustrates just how harmful exploitation is to the health, financial security, and academic progress of international students: “Accommodation is the foundation of their life – sometimes students have to spend lots of time to find accommodation… [and so] have less time to study. They know they have to study, but if they have nowhere to live, study doesn’t really become their first priority.”

Farbenblum blames a lack of pre-arrival services for exacerbating the problems and says that landlords are targeting international students because of that. The report calls for improved access to adequate housing, and better tenancy services with communication between local councils, state governments, service providers and police. It also asks for better legislation and harsher penalties for rogue landlords and scammers. 

Farbenblum says that new legislation must disrupt rogue business models and make international student exploitation unprofitable. She adds that discussions with government stakeholders are already underway.

Read more on this story from The PIE News.