Several international students living in Victoria, Australia, are living in substandard housing that is unsafe and in poor condition due to a lack of funding, according to a recent report by WEstjustice.
Having documented the housing issues faced by international students in the state as well as identifying relevant limitations or gaps in current laws and regulations was the purpose of the International Student Housing Project Report.
Several students were homeless after evictions caused by illegal practices and entrapped by unscrupulous rental companies.
Also included in the report were several complaints filed with Consumer Affairs Victoria and Melbourne City Council by international students and found the rental sector's regulatory framework has gaps and limitations.
"International students have made a huge contribution to Victoria's economy and are a key part of the country's vibrant community," the report said.
In spite of this, most international students live in insecure housing, including unregistered and unregulated rooms, sub-lets, licenses, home-stays, and other uncertain situations.
It is problematic to live in overcrowded, unsafe, and inadequate housing, which makes international students significantly more susceptible to exploitation and unscrupulous conduct by residential providers.
This report combines the results of WEstjustice's International Student Legal Accommodation Service with the experiences of participants in the International Student Housing Network.
WEstjustice delivered the ISALS clinic to international students from August 1, 2019 - to December 11, 2020, through a partnership with Study Melbourne Student Centre, to seek legal assistance.
In 16 months, the WEstjustice program provided legal assistance to 250 clients, including 319 international students, some of whom attended with housemates. Information collected from the clients is the basis for the report.
WEstjustice identified non-filing of bonds with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority, withholding of bonds without cause, as well as illegal evictions that put students at risk of homelessness.
Furthermore, rental providers give students misleading information, which may undermine their rights as renters and expose them to financial exploitation. Unscrupulous rental providers that target international students occasionally misrepresent, deceive, and scam them, a report stated.
A notable finding of the report is that many students live in arrangements that are not covered by tenancy laws, and outside the normative rental relationship between landlord and tenant.
The report’s authors add that international students are also hampered by significant hurdles when asserting their rights, such as fear of overusing legal rights, lack of access to legal information, and delays in legal proceedings.
In addition, the survey received 48 anonymous responses. Through the educational sector alone, over 299,600 international students enroll in Victoria, contributing $13.7 billion to its economy (Data from 2019).