Qld Treasurer misses the point about TAAS services

The Tenant Advice and Advocacy Service (TAAS) in West End was featured on the ABC TV’s 7.30 Queensland on Friday August 10 as part of a review of government cuts affecting the Queensland community services sector. View it here.

TAAS worker Joe Hurley highlighted how the program assists people to remain in private rental market housing, reducing demand for social housing. Coverage also showed the reach of the TAAS program to many people on low incomes living in marginal housing.

Tim Nicholls Qld TreasurerIn a follow up interview, the Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls discussed the withdrawal of funding to the TAAS program. He stated that the vast majority of advice is provided by the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) which supplies three times as much advice as the combined efforts of all the smaller groups (meaning the TUQ and local tenant advice services). See the interview here.

There are two key inaccuracies in what the Treasurer has said that need to be corrected.

Firstly, the RTA does not provide advice at all. The RTA has an information service which is available to landlords, real estate agents and tenants. As an information service the RTA will tell you what the law says but cannot work with you to apply that to your own situation and help determine your best options.

For tenants, advice is available from the TUQ and local tenant advice services, either face to face or by phone depending on the individual’s need. These services not only work with tenants to identify their best options according to individual circumstances and desired outcomes, they also empower tenants to act on their chosen option by providing assistance to engage in the procedures set out in the law.

By contrast, impartial information from the Brisbane-based RTA is only available by telephone. They cannot advise tenants. They cannot advocate on behalf of tenants. And none of their services are available face to face anywhere outside of the centre of Brisbane city. The RTA – fully funded by tenant bond interest – has a role to play, but it certainly isn’t to provide advice to tenants or to advocate on their behalf.

Secondly, whilst it is true that the RTA provides three times the number of information services collectively to landlords, real estate agents and tenants than the TAAS sector provides solely to the latter group, the nature of these services are vastly different rendering the numerical comparison meaningless.  For example, the time taken to understand a tenant’s individual circumstances, review their relevant documentation and assist them in corresponding with their real estate or, if necessary, the tenancy tribunal cannot be compared with the information they would get by calling the RTA.  Indeed, the RTA refers a large number of tenants who call them to the TUQ and the local advice services because they cannot satisfy their needs.

Last year the RTA cost $30m to run compared to the TAAS program at $6.4M ($5M from tenant bond interest and $1.4M from consolidated revenue).  Consolidated revenue of $1.4M was an increase from the previous year due the government’s desire to provide additional advice work in three mining communities.   Tenant bond interest contributes the majority of TAAS program funding providing $5M.  It is neither fair nor equitable to remove this funding from the Program.

In summary, it is misinformed or disingenuous to suggest the abolition of the TAAS program will not result in a tangible loss of service that will be acutely felt by Queensland tenants.  The RTA does not replicate the work of tenant advice services.

This decision to withdraw the TAAS program must be reversed.

2 thoughts on “Qld Treasurer misses the point about TAAS services

  1. To whom it may concern: To stop the TAAS program that helps Tenants from being pushed and shoved around by Landlords is terrible and does not help Tenants is unfair unjust and unnecessary, Tenants deserve to be helped and given honest support as Tenants as Landlords are not accountable on the ground and highly disrespect Tenants and there Rights. They are paid adequate wages for nothing they don’t help Tenants at all and have poor respect overall for low income people and have no compassion and don’t comply to correct standards, especially to people whom have ill Health, it’s disgraceful to say the least. If I new the Government was going to cut the funding for this program, I would not have voted them in.

  2. For a government intent on cutting costs this decision is seriously flawed. Homelessness is a very real issue that has not been addressed by this decision. Social Justice principles are in jeopardy for tenants by cutting access to services. This is a successful service that has been providing needed assistance, advocacy, information and education to private rental and social housing tenants for many years with great success. The growth of the service over the years is testamount to its demand and necessity. As a previous employee of TAASQ and the RTA, I can confirm that BOTH are essential to providing support to tenants. The RTA is an information service to both landlords and tenants and must remain impartial as a result. TAASQ only assists tenants by education of their obligations and rights and assisting them to maintian their tenancies in a positive manner. It provides advocacy to those in the community who are at a disadvantage. It assists the community by its positive actions and NOT adding to the escalating social housing demand.