Companies spy a way to exploit tenants – Business Spectator

Kim4We think this is a good article. Queensland lead the way introducing protections against the unreasonable practices of tenancy database companies. Now most, if not all states and territories have some form of protection, despite that some companies continually try to find new ways to work around them.

It was Queensland tenant advocates that pushed for these initial protections, not industry. What will happen when the advocates are gone? The market will become skewed and unfair. It’s going to be a rocky road ahead for Qld tenants.

Newman Govt announces RTA board with NO tenant representation.

The Newman Government delivers another blow to tenants.

The RTA (Residential Tenancies Authority) has a board that has normally consisted of members who can provide perspective from a variety of stakeholder groups.

For the last 20 years there has been a board member representing tenants on the RTA board, as there should be, the RTA is funded from the proceeds from tenant’s bond money.

In another attack aimed at Qld tenants the Newman Government appointed the RTA board this week with NO tenants’ representative. The new board consists of members with backgrounds in real estate agencies, property owner groups, public housing, finance and building but NOT from groups representing tenants. One third of Queenslanders are tenants – tenants’ money provides the capital to run the RTA – it is hard to believe that tenants’ interests are not represented.

This move further highlights the need for an independent tenant’s advice service in Qld.

Renovating Housing Report shows the imbalance – need for tenant services

The report – “Renovating Housing Policy” released by the Grattan Institute last week clearly describes the imbalance already present in the Australian Housing system. Landlords and owners of homes enjoy enormous benefits through Government policies compared to people who rent their homes. As more people are renting their home, and renting for a longer part of their lives this imbalance of fairness will cause more strain to the system and anguish for more people – especially tenants.

With the odds stacked so much against them tenants need access to independent tenants’ advice and advocacy services.

When these services were funded by the tenants’ own bonds and not from State taxes it makes the case for continuing the funding seem beyond obvious.

If you can help please spread the word, consider volunteering, and write to your MP & the Premier

See the Grattan Report

With more tenants than ever, the Government is making more money from our bonds and taking away our services!

Photo: James Brickwood

Across Australia, more people are renting in the private rental sector than previously, in fact there are twice as many renters today than there were in 1981.  And they are renting long term, no longer is private rental a transitional tenure to home ownership.  But renters in Australia have fewer tenancy rights than renters in Europe.

So why is the Qld Government withdrawing funding to tenant advice services?  Especially since the tenancy advice services are self-funded, ie they don’t rely on taxpayers because they are funded by a small portion of tenants’ bond money.  With more tenants, and therefore increased levels of bond interest, the government is in a better position than ever before to allow funding to go to support tenant advice services.

Contact your MP, write to the Premier demand our services back!

See – With more people renting than 30 years ago, change is needed to protect tenants’ rights.

Government changes in absences in public housing – STS comments

Housing Minister Tim Mander has announced he will crack down on public housing tenantsJudging up who are away from their rental home for more than 3 months.

The Minister’s press release implied public housing tenants who took leave from their rental properties were taking unjustified holiday breaks “Obviously, the current situation is absurd and needs to be changed,” he said.

The Queensland government is the largest landlord in Queensland and manages 51,705 rental properties. The Minister’s figures revealed that 285 tenants successfully sought permission to be away from their property for between 3 and 12 months last year.

To take a leave of absence Tenants must have a valid reason and apply to the Department for permission.

Public housing tenants may take leave from their properties for many reasons, including caring for family members, extended hospital treatments, rehabilitation, or short periods of imprisonment. Any implication that many public housing tenants are taking unjustified extended overseas holidays is clearly misleading.

All tenant absences must be approved by the Department of Housing in accordance with their policy guidelines. Continue reading

TU NSW writes about changes to public housing in their state

Rerprinted from the TU NSW’s The Brown Couch.  Read directly here.

Friday, September 6, 2013
The same for less, or more to stay the same?

Not to take your mind off the Federal Election that’s to be held tomorrow, but if you are a tenant in NSW Public Housing there is another important date that is fast approaching – on Monday, September 9th, HNSW will flick the switch on the new ‘better approach to filling vacant bedrooms’ policy. We expect to see the full details of this policy on Monday.
This policy has been referred to as a new ‘vacant bedroom charge’, but you might have also heard it mentioned as the spare bedroom tax. Essentially, it will require tenants with more bedrooms than allowed by their entitlement to make a choice: pay the same for less, or pay more to stay the same.

We’ve already spoken about this a couple of times on the Brown Couch, and it is worth revisiting those discussions for a refresher about what we already know. You can find these posts here, here and here.

But to summarise, briefly: tenants who have more bedrooms than they’re entitled to (based on the policy at this link) may be asked to relocate to smaller premises. If they are asked, and they decline, their rent subsidy will be adjusted so that they pay more. For singles, this will mean a rent increase of about $20 per week; for couples, it will mean a rise of about $30 per week.

If, on the other hand, the tenant chooses to relocate to a smaller premises, they will be placed on the waiting list for a transfer, and will be considered a priority applicant.

Since writing those earlier posts, we have had some further discussions with Housing NSW about how this policy will be implemented. Here’s what we have been lead to understand: Continue reading

Baby Grace calls for re-funding of Tenant Services in Qld!!

Baby GraceWe’d like to introduce you to our newest recruit.  Baby Grace says she’s happy to live with her family for now but one day she’s going to want to move out into a place of her own.  The chances are, that’ll be into the private rental market.  And she wants to have a fair market to live in – one that includes services which can help her understand her rights and responsibilities and assist her to act on them in order achieve the best outcomes for her.

Baby Grace really wants Tenant Services in Queensland to be re-funded by the State government (all it would take is a small percentage of the interest generated on tenants’ own bonds) before the current funding ends on December 31, 2013.

Help SAVE TENANT SERVICES beyond 2013!  Keep an eye out – we’ll be updating this site in the very near future and moving back into campaign gear.

(Note – names have been changed to protect the young!)


A commentary on the Minister’s budget estimates statements on TAAS

For rent sign with houseWe’re not sure if you noticed the following comments made by the State Housing Minister during budget estimates hearings.  We posted this as part of a larger post a few days ago.  Today we repost in order to respond; here’s what the Minister said in response to a question from an LNP colleague on July 24:

We made the very hard decision, but I believe the right decision, to stop the funding to TAS because we believe there was a duplication of services………. It is very important to note that, amongst the services that TAS provided, only 10 per cent were related to advocacy. The majority of services are already offered by the RTA and other organisations. Seventy-five per cent of TAS services were over the telephone. We believe that we have made a good decision in this area. We have streamlined the processes and we have more money available now for our housing and homelessness strategies.

We’re not sure how the Minister determined that 10% of TAAS services were related to advocacy but we do know that in the last full year of funding, 35% of all the advice provided by TAAS services was related to advocacy.  This equates to just short of 19,000 hours of advocacy services to Queensland tenants. Where will Queensland tenants gain access to these services when the Commonwealth emergency funding ends on December 31 this year? Continue reading

Minister Mander understanding of TAAS still misconceived – budget estimates

New Qld Parliament 2012It seems like the State Housing Minister has plans to expand the role of the RTA.  Last Thursday State Housing Minister Mander was asked several questions at the budget estimates hearings. Expand they might, but the RTA will never be able to do the job the TAASs do – advise tenants.

The following extract from Hansard was a question from LNP representative for Nudgee, Mr Jason Woodforth to the Minister.

Mr WOODFORTH:”Minister, I refer to page 38 with regard to the provision of the tenant advisory services in Queensland. Can you advise how you are ensuring services are delivered in an economically efficient way? “

Mr MANDER:”Yes, and thank you for that question. It is important that we do provide good advisory services for tenants. We need to also make sure that we do it in the most cost-effective way and not duplicate any services. What I have been trying to do there is provide a more strategic approach to this. We have a number of services that we provide to help people stay in their tenancies. I have already mentioned today the Home Assist Secure program. I have mentioned also RentConnect. Currently we are reviewing the RTA and the services it provides. Continue reading

Tenant Advice Services still open for business in Qld!

Amazingly most services have managed to survive.  It is truly a credit to their resilience and commitment to the work they do.

“Amazingly most services have managed to survive. It is truly a credit to their resilience and commitment to the work they do”.

It was twelve months’ ago yesterday that 23 services then funded through the Tenant Advice and Advocacy Services (TAAS) Program received an unexpected fax informing them that the funding program would be completely discontinued.  The funding was being withdrawn despite the lion’s share of it coming from the interest generated on tenants’ own bonds.  The fax provided three months’ notice of funding withdrawal, ending their contracts almost two years early.

Today we wanted to pay homage to resilience of these services and acknowledge their commitment (their workers and committees) to continuing to deliver services to tenants in their communities.

The last year has been an exceptionally difficult time for the TAAS services.  As many of you will know, after a huge outpouring of support for the services and a campaign to raise people’s awareness of the changes, the Commonwealth government announced on October 3 – three weeks before the end of the State funding – that services would be provided with one-off funding from 1 November to 30 June.

These funding arrangements were hurriedly put in place – the State agreed to administer them for the Commonwealth – as services turned around their closure plans and continued on.  The services were in the odd situation of having to wrap up and finalise the funding originating from the State under one contract and sign up new contracts with the same area of government in order to deliver the same, albeit a slightly reduced level of, services.

In the meantime they kept providing those services and supporting tenants in their communities.

The next few months were still followed by the lack of long term security for the services.  Tenants and supporters across the state contacted the State government seeking a review of the decision and thousands of letters and postcards were received by government on the issue.  In the meantime, negotiations between the Commonwealth and State governments on the National Partnership on Homelessness (NPAH) were underway, under which the Commonwealth sought to bind the State to funding tenant advice and advocacy services. Continue reading

Kevin Rudd MP in Federation Chamber discusses homelessness and TAAS

From Hansard Federation Chamber
Thursday, 20 June 2013 Page: 81 (see last paragraph re TAAS)

Mr RUDD (Griffith) (09:40): The member for Hinkler has just informed me he will rise to speak in a minute on the passing of Mr Bernie Johnson from his electorate. In anticipation of the remarks that he will make, I would like to extend my bipartisan support for his commendation of a person who was a great Indigenous leader from the city of Bundaberg. Sadly, he passed away in the last week. Through the honourable member and through the parliament, I extend my condolences to his family and to the community.

I am speaking in the chamber this morning on the question of homelessness. This is a continuing challenge for all Australians. According to the census data, we have more than 105,000 Australians who are homeless and 44,000 are young people. Across Queensland, there are more than 19,000 people sleeping rough tonight. Of those, 8,000 are under the age of 25, 5,000 are homeless as a result of domestic violence and 750 are without a place to call home as a result of mental health challenges.

Tonight I am sleeping in the CEO Sleepout, organised by St Vincent de Paul. This is the third St Vinnie’s Sleepout that I have participated in. I will be joining hundreds of CEOs, both in Brisbane and around Australia, to raise funds for St Vincent de Paul. Last year we did so and raised $5.3 million across the country. Continue reading

State rejects $2.5 million from the Federal Government to fund support services for tenants

Reprinted from Courier Mail today.  You can read article directly their website here and make comments at the bottom.

The Queensland Tenant Advice and Advocacy Services (TAAS) which supports 500,000 renting households, will cease operation on June 30.

The Queensland Tenant Advice and Advocacy Services (TAAS) which supports 500,000 renting households, will cease operation on June 30.

TAAS was described as valuable but unaffordable, despite it being funded from tenant bond interest and not taxpayer dollars.

In hindsight, this decision seems a knee-jerk reaction by a new government looking to make easy savings but as well as being self-funded, the program works predominantly with people in private housing to keep them housed independently.

The work is frontline and local. All of these aspects seem to align with the LNP philosophy, the direction identified by Premier Campbell Newman last year and the Queensland Commission of Audit. Continue reading

What’s changed for the State Government since last October 3?

Why doesn’t the State Government sign off to take $2.5M from the Commonwealth to help out Queensland tenants battling away in the regions?
 Last year the State government was so keen to take money and keep the valuable TAAS program going.  At the time, the Minister said, “I’d be delighted to see the Federal Government put up the cash to fund this program and the state government would be more than happy to continue to administer it.”.   What’s changed?
Read the State government press release of last October 3 here.