Rogue landlords exploit students: report

Steven Trask

The exploitation of international students is rampant in Australia's "wild west" rental housing market, a new report has found.

More than 5000 international students across Australia were surveyed for the report, which found "rogue landlords" were preying on students.

Associate Professor Bassina Farbenblum from the UNSW says international students looking for a place to live often have to stumble through a "minefield of problems".

"Landlords exploit students because they can," she told AAP.

"The students are far from home, they don't know their rights and they need a roof over their heads.

"We found exploitative practices like a student's rent being almost doubled overnight during an exam period."

Other students unknowingly paid for accommodation that didn't exist, was massively overcrowded, or was unsafe to live in, Ms Farbenblum said.

"Exploitation is thriving unchecked in the wild west of the share house market, and international students can't avoid it simply by organising housing after they arrive in Australia."

The international education sector has been increasingly concerned with the treatment of foreign students in recent years, the report found.

"Half of all respondents indicated that they had experienced one or more problems in their housing in Australia," the report read.

"These included a range of deceptive practices.

"Students reported experiences of intimidation, harassment or sexual harassment by a landlord or tenant."

Other issues reported in the survey included landlords unexpectedly moving in additional people without existing tenants' knowledge, and unfair evictions.

"It's clear now that the sporadic stories of exploitation reported in the media are just the tip of a massive iceberg," Ms Farbenblum said.

University of Technology Sydney law lecturer Dr Laurie Berg says online advertisements commonly lure international students into exploitative situations.

These situations included users conning students into paying for accommodation that didn't exist, Dr Berg said.

The report used anonymous online surveys of international students living in Australia.

The surveys were offered in English, Mandarin, Portuguese and Spanish, and more than 5000 valid responses were received.