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    NSW picks fight with Meriton boss over renters’ rights legislation

    Branko Miletic

    Meriton boss Harry Trubigoff, who is worth around $12 billion, has warned the NSW state government that if it persists with implementing legislation that would provide more rights to renters, he will stop building apartments in the state.

    According to Trubigoff, he will stop constructing any more rental properties and flood the market with those he has already completed in retaliation against the NSW Berijiklian government’s promise to increase the rights of NSW renters, following a similar move by Victoria recently.

    Although it’s not known exactly what those new NSW laws will entail, as legislation is not due to be presented to parliament until early next year, the mere whiff of any new laws dealing with renters’ rights has got one of Australia’s richest men upset.

    "I will sell all the rental properties, which I will vacate, and I will not build any new ones,” Trubigoff said to the Australian Business Review.

    Trubigoff’s justification for this was that any reforms, including those limiting rental increases would undermine Meriton’s business model of developing apartment blocks and raising the rents gradually to reach "market rates".

    Lowering the number of available new properties in the state, say some analysts, could increase rents across NSW at a time when rental properties were barely keeping up with demand for property.

    At the same time, others in the property market have pointed out to the irony in Trubigoff’s threat to flood the market with thousands of apartments – as any economist will admit, increasing the supply will drive down the price of any commodity, meaning that this action alone could help drive down house prices, and make it easier for people to enter the home ownership market.

    According to the NSW minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Matt Kean, the rights of tenants are paramount in any change of laws.

    “I am determined to get the balance right; tenants’ rights must be safeguarded but landlords must also have the ability to protect their investment,” says Kean.

    He says his government will be proposing reforms such as “enhanced protections for victims of domestic and family violence, a fairer lease-break fee for tenants, improving rights to have repairs undertaken, introducing better disclosure requirements prior to a tenant signing a lease, and increased protections for tenants regarding photos and videos of the interior of their rental properties.”

    “I look forward to having more to say about these important reforms in the near future,” says Kean.

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