NSW to investigate ways to end bidding wars over rental properties

<span>Photograph: Flavio Brancaleone/AAP</span>
Photograph: Flavio Brancaleone/AAP

Bidding wars for New South Wales rental properties could be outlawed after the state’s customer service minister, Victor Dominello, ordered an urgent review of interstate efforts to curb the widespread practice.

Peak housing bodies have long been calling for a ban on rental bidding to bring the state into line with Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, where advertised rents are set and cannot be bid up by prospective tenants, or listed as a range.

Dominello said he expected to hear back from the department within “a few weeks” about how the other states’ schemes were working and if there were any factors specific to NSW that needed to be considered before action was taken.

“I just want to make sure that it’s working,” he said on Monday.

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“What we’re trying to do is make sure that we take the hard edges off the market because it really is a difficult situation.

“We know that landlords have also got competing interests, they’ve got interest repayments going up so they’re in a difficult situation but equally renters are in a difficult situation.”

Dominello said the government needed to intervene in the “hot marketplace”.

In October, Guardian Australia found dozens of instances of rental listings that included price ranges or “from” rates on major real estate websites, with some agents listing disparities of $150 for in-demand properties.

Peak housing bodies including National Shelter and Tenants’ Union of NSW have been calling for better regulation of the practice that many claim forces prices up.

The Coalition’s move was supported by the Greens, who also called for other protections for renters including ending no grounds evictions and banning intrusive rental applications.

The party’s housing spokesperson, Jenny Leong, welcomed action on the issue, but said it could have been done years ago.

“This is not a new problem,” she said.

“Let’s not hide under the cover of an investigation when we know it’s a problem right now.”

The latest rental affordability index showed renting had become less affordable in Sydney over the past year, and prises have been rising since the pandemic.

Labor’s spokesperson for better regulation, Courtney Houssos, said a ban on rent bidding would be an important step “but we want to make sure that it’s done in a transparent and fair way”.

“Now the parliamentary year has concluded it’s really unclear about how this will actually be brought into practice. But I can commit today that if we are elected in March, we will make this happen,” she said.

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The move to improve housing affordability came as the state government announced it would rezone 10 areas across NSW to free up land for up to 70,000 new homes.

“Working with councils, rezoning is one important lever that we are pulling to get the ball rolling on more housing supply,” the premier Dominic Perrottet said on Monday.

“We are throwing everything at getting more houses built so more people get keys in doors and can realise their dream of owning a home.”

Through the $73.5m program, 10 areas will be rezoned, including at Riverstone, Camellia-Rosehill, Macquarie Park, Explorer Street in Eveleigh, two sites in Parramatta, and one site in Broadmeadow in Newcastle.