Growth in private rental sector changing attitudes towards tenants, new research finds

New research by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute has found that the growth of the private rental sector is having landlords and agents increase the value they place on tenants. 

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Researchers from Swinburne University of Technology, UNSW Sydney and Curtin University analysed data from the ABS and the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey to complete the report.

This data, along with interviews with 42 people involved in the private rental sector, helped create the Private Rental in Transition: Institutional Change, Technology and Innovation in Australia report.

The report found that households in the private rental sector grew by 38 per cent over the decade to 2016, more than twice the rate of household growth, to now account for 26 per cent of all households.

This growth had a flow-on effect on the real estate industry as bigger rent rolls had the capacity to provide greater income and more stable revenue streams for agents and property managers.


The lead author of the study, Chris Martin, said that property management was a growing revenue stream for many agencies.

“Rental property management has grown in importance for real estate agents in the post-GFC environment,” Mr Martin said.

“Property management has grown as a source of real estate industry revenue from an average 23 per cent in 1992–93 to an average of 44 per cent in 2014.”

The report found that some investment in the digital technologies and intermediaries had also helped reform the sector.

Technological developments had allowed landlords and tenants to bypass agents, but the overall share of properties under management had grown.

“From 2006 to 2016, properties under management by agents had increased from 65 per cent to 75 per cent, with the biggest increases in Sydney and Melbourne, [at] 81 per cent and 79 per cent, respectively,” Mr Martin said.

The expanding sector has meant that there is increased demand on the industry to create better services for tenants and keep up with expectations of clients and sources of business according to the report.

“Expectations of service are increasing and there is scope for the sector to improve the sometimes difficult role of rental property management,” the lead author said.

Mr Martin also said that the industry needed to have a cultural shift.

“We need landlords to see themselves not just as ‘investors’ but in the business of providing housing services,” Mr Martin said.

The report’s interviewees agree, with one interviewee stating that treating tenants more highly was the way forward for businesses.

“Long gone are the days where the tenancy was a second-rate citizen. If an agency’s still running that system, it’s going to go out of business eventually,” said one of the report’s interviewees.

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