Redundant Rocky TAAS worker shares some history

On his last day, Rocky TAAS worker Craig sent us this potted history as he shut the doors for the last time. 14-2 two

In December 1988 the Queensland Housing Commission offered to make available to Community Organisations participating in Mortgage and Rent Relief schemes a one-off grant to employ a Housing Referral Worker.

The expected duties of the Worker were:

  • To assist people locate suitable accommodation in the private rental market;
  • To assist people obtain Commission bond guarantees, rent relief and long term accommodation;
  • To assist with tenancy law advice;
  • To assist those in crisis with practical support.

Our first Housing Referral Worker was Ron Leeks with the then auspicing organisation of Rockhampton Family Emergency Accommodation Programme (FEAP).

In July 1991 the Housing Referral Worker Programme became the Housing Resource Worker Programme with the newly formed Department of Housing and Local Government. When Ron moved on to greener pastures he was replaced with Keith Mansfield and around 1996-97 the programme auspice was transferred to CQ Consumers Association at the request of the SAAP service, FEAP.

I joined in 1998 as Keith’s relief worker and did my first block of training in tenancy law at the Tenants Union of Queensland offices in Teneriffe, and what trendy offices they were 

Over the years I’ve gone from relief work to part time work to full time, guess I always was a sucker for punishment. It is with great sadness that I have to oversee the closure of a service that has worked tirelessly for almost 25 years, I’ve had to bin and shred documents almost as old as I am.

From all the past workers who have championed the cause of a fair go for tenants in Central Queensland; Ron Leeks, Keith Mansfield, Margaret Whitton, Craig Jackson, Maureen Neal, Leonie Lane, Lyn & Alex Gartlan, Debbie Willebrand and Katelyn Clements; we say…

Fare thee well and good fortune smile upon your future endeavours, the axe is falling and we will cease to be in just over two hours at 12:30 pm local time.

(Editor’s note:  the service had to close a month early because Craig found a new job.  After 14 years he was made redundant but has no access or right to a redundancy payout.  It is a far cry from the Premier’s comments last year the all public service redundancies were voluntary and everyone got big payout.  Wrong on both counts in this case) 

A supporter’s response to the Premier’s facbook team

A great response from one of our supporters to the Premier’s facebook team.

Susie:   Mr Newman, I am sorry but do you even know what it is like to be a tenant? I have been through the process. Most landlords are represented by the real estate agent, who has training in that field and has often been to QCAT numerous times before to represent their Property owners. A tenant is completely on their own. They always have to represent themselves. How is it also fair that the interest from Tenants’ Bonds funds the RTA that is there for both lessors and tenants alike? Regardless of what you CAN legally do with the money, that money exists only because tenants are made to pay a Bond on the house they stay in, even if the place is in disrepair when they move in. For many it is “live in a tip or on the streets”. What about bringing in a Landlord Bond to cover repairs and maintenance during the tenancy that tenants can access through QCAT? Continue reading

‘MPs are capable of accessing, reading and explaining the legislation to tenants’ – Premier’s FB team

This is a response from the Premier’s Team last Friday to questions about TAAS. We’re not sure if they realise that many electorate officers call TAAS for help.

Hi Susie – As someone who has worked in an electorate office, I can assure you that staff and MPs are capable of accessing, reading and explaining the legislation to tenants.
This is what electorate officers do, on a daily basis, covering the whole spectrum of issues.
They are also happy to provide free photocopies to assist tenants and constituents. In fact, many offices are happy to print out hundreds of community newsletters for free.
As we all know, the RTA’s website has directories filled with detailed fact sheets and forms and explanations that can help an electorate officer explain to a constituent their rights. The electorate office staff would be happy to print out these fact sheets. (In fact the one I worked in had a number of factsheets printed out ready to go). Of course, the RTA does provide free concilliation services. The RTA’s Dispute Resolution Service can be conducted through separate telephone calls, a teleconference or by face to face conference.
It’s worth noting that the RTA successfully resolves 70% of all disputes through concilliation. Of course, unresolved matters can then be held by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. QCAT is designed to allow Queenslanders to represent themselves – in fact, all parties involved in a matter before QCAT must represent themselves.  As you acknowledge, tenants have to represent themselves at QCAT – so do landlords. Continue reading

Response to the member for Morayfield

Member for Morayfield, Mr Darren Grimwade, sent this response to constituent who sent it to us on facebook.  We cannot let this pass without comment because many things said are incorrect (see our responses below). To be fair, it’s not much different to what other members of the government have been saying, but with a TAAS in his electorate, we thought Mr Grimwade might had a better understanding. This is what he said:

Darren-Grimwade-MP….Hi Julie, The government last year made the decision to redirect funding from TAASQ to bricks and mortar housing solutions, this decision stands. Services provided by TAASQ were an unnecessary duplication of services already provided by the RTA, various Queensland NGOs and more than 30 community legal centres around Queensland. Priority must be given to housing the 23 000 households on the social housing waiting list, which includes people with a disability, the elderly and single parents with children. Continue reading

State gov’t to continue funding for Home Assist Secure

Congratulations Home Assist Secure, very good news! The following is yesterday’s  press release from State Housing Minister Mander’s office.  The state will continue to fund Home Assist Secure, a program that helps people remain in their private homes – owner occupied or private rental (see second last paragraph) and off the social housing wait list.  Sounds familiar to us because TAAS services assist private renters stay more safely and securely housed, reducing social housing demand.  Only difference is that TAAS is self funded by a small percentage of consumers’ bond interest!  Keep up the good work Home Assist Secure!

Home Assist Secure program to continue – Press Release
Minister for Housing & Public Works The Hon Tim Mander

Housing and Public Works Minister Tim Mander has announced the Home Assist Secure program will continue to be funded throughout 2013–14.

The program provides funding to improve the lifestyle of elderly and disabled residents living in privately-owned accommodation.

Mr Mander said almost $18 million will be allocated to service providers in 41 locations around Queensland. Continue reading

International Union of Tenants makes comment

International Union of Tenants

International Union of Tenants

Mr Magnus Hammar, Secretary-General of the International Union of Tenants based in Sweden, posted this comment on the Save Tenant Services facebook page recently.   Mr Hammar was  a keynote speaker at the National Housing Conference held in Brisbane last November.

Magnus Hammar:  Tenant services, incl. TUQ and all TAAS offices, are essential for all tenants in Queensland as the level of tenant’s security is so low in Queensland, and in other Australian states, compared with most other developed countries. This in spite of the fact that 1/3 of all Australians rent their accommodation. TUQ and TAAS contribute to a more level and fair playing field in a country where homeownership is favourised. Save tenant services!

Letter to my local MP

(insert date)

(Add your local MP’s address here)
Who is my MP? – call parliament house 1800 197 809
Don’t know your MP’s address click here or call parliament house
Dear (insert name of your MP here)

I am writing to ask if you support the decision made by the state government last year to withdraw funding for all independent tenant advice services in Queensland.

As my local member I am asking you to voice support for these services in our community and seek reinstatement of funding for them.

I also ask you to approach Premier Campbell Newman on my behalf and request he consider re-funding these services before December when their emergency funding from the Commonwealth runs out.

Until last year, just a small percent of the interest generated on tenants’ own bonds – not taxpayer dollars – provided fundng for local, independent services in 23 locations statewide, employing highly trained workers.  It’s only fair that these services are reinstated for tenants. 

Without your successful intervention tenant advice services will close on December 31 and tenants will have nowhere to go for independent advice and tenancy support.  The system will not work and tenants will be disadvantaged within it.

For many this wil lead to rental stress and potential homelessness.

I look forward to your written response to these urgent concerns for local tenants.

Yours sincerely

(Add your name address here)

JP (Quals) could compound dispute unease – QLS

This is a media release reprinted from the Queensland Law Society website. Or read it directly here.

Queensland Law Society is concerned about the decision to trial Justices of the Peace (Qualified) to preside with legally experienced Justices of the Peace over certain QCAT matters.

The proposed change is contained in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Justices of the Peace) Amendment Bill 2013, recently introduced in Queensland Parliament.

President Annette Bradfield said only legally qualified and experienced Justices of the Peace – a proposed new type of JP – and Justices of the Peace (Magistrates) should be involved in determining QCAT matters such as minor civil disputes. Continue reading

Lament of a TAAS worker #1

Tenants'voiceA suite of emotions engulfed me as I read the state Department of Housing fax last July advising that Minister Flegg would no longer approve funding for the TAASQ program. Anger was certainly prominent but confusion, frustration and melancholy were also present. Similar emotions returned when a second letter arrived last week from the Director-General of the Department of Housing confirming that funding would not continue after the federal government’s emergency funding ends on of 30 June 2013.

Anger emerged because of the callous and non-consultative manner in which these decisions had been made. ‘How dare some know-it-all cabinet ministers make decisions that will have an ongoing and devastating impact on the vulnerable without consultation’, I thought to myself. Is this how executive government operates in the 21st century?  No meaningful research conducted and certainly no consultation convened to test the validity of the decision. Not necessary as our elected masters know best.

Confusion quickly followed. Continue reading

Minister Mander’s comments misconceived

Yesterday the Minister for Housing and Public Works responded to a question in Parliament about the effect of the de-funding of the Tenant Advice and Advocacy Services (TAAS) program.

In the face of cutting funding to all 23 services statewide, TAAS workers across the state have expressed concern and bitter disappointment over the Minister’s misconceptions about the Program and work of TAAS, and the undervaluing of the skill level required to provide these services.  You can read the Hansard record here and we will also add it to the end of the post.

Here are several reasons why what the Minister said is, at best, misconceived:

  •  Providing tenancy advice is about empowering tenants. We try to get tenants to self-advocate by giving them the advice, skills and tools to run their own matter.  There is rarely enough resources to meet demand.  This work is often done by telephone which helps services to meet the needs of as many clients as possible.  The level of support provided to tenants is escalated if there is a need – e.g. they may have a disability, have literacy issues, English as a second language, it may be a complex matter, the client may be in an emotional state –  and the worker might prepare documents, make representations on their behalf or more formally represent them.   Much of this work requires some face to face interaction or at least documents to be reviewed.  Because a lot of the work is on the phone does not mean that it is not different from the RTA’s information provision.
  • ‘we see that 60 per cent of the core service outcomes were reported as unresolved’ –  this refers to data the services are required to collect.  What it means is that in 60% of cases when giving advice to tenants the services don’t know what the outcome of the matter is.  It simply means that at the time of giving the advice – how to seek compensation from the lessor for example, the worker doesn’t know the outcome regarding the claim.
  •  The work requires a high level of training and expertise and this expertise accumulates over time.  To say that there are lots of services which could fill the void truly underestimates what’s required to deliver accurate up to date and quality advice. Continue reading

Out of touch? Premier’s Team maintains view tenant advice is a luxury

The Premier’s team again recently confirmed on the Premier’s facebook page (see below) they think that tenancy advice is a luxury!! And they continue to maintain that TAAS is a duplication of the services of the RTA.  Here’s what they said:
Premier Newman, I believe your team told TAAS that their services were a luxury the government could not afford. TAAS is not a luxury for people who rent their home. I have had to use the amazing services of TAAS and I am by no means… the most vulnerable renter of a home in Queensland. Still I needed their services. The suggestion that TAAS is a luxury illustrates that your government is out of touch with the reality of many people’s lives. Also, is it true that spending $2M advertising a first time buyers grant is going ahead while at the same time spending renters own bond money on TAAS is considered too much of a luxury? Yesterday at 16:01
Campbell Newman: Yes Susan – The Minister and the Newman Government has called duplicating services already offered by the Government a luxury we cannot afford. We stand by our decision to redirect funds to putting a roof over the heads of Queensland’s most vulnerable people. Continue reading

Premier’s Team says tenancy advice ‘is a luxury we can’t afford’

Kim4The Premier’s Team thinks that tenancy advice and support ‘is a luxury we can’t afford’!! When did they last rent??  That’s what they said on the Premier’s facebook page in response to a question about de-funding.  And that the the services of TAAS are already available through the government agencies of the RTA and RentConnect (see paste below).
A luxury??  Tell that to the people who are in the tribunal trying to keep their home, or the tenants without the back steps, or the ones that come into find the agent has entered without notice. This response is out of touch.  And as for suggesting that the RTA and RentConnect provide the same services as TAAS it’s simply false (we’ve discussed this before).
Anyway what happened to small government and front line outsourced/privatised service provision as a priority?  And as for ‘resources going to those most in need’ – are we using the same measure for the the $2M the government announced it would spend on advertising First Home Owner grants? Advertising!!
(reply from the Premier’s Facebook Team on Friday at 10.26)
Campbell Newman Hi Amanda – We made the announcement last year that TAAS funding would be redirected to provide additional social Continue reading

Proserpine tenant thanks TAAS service!


from Wikipedia

Another reason why tenants need specialist services!

25 March 2013
♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦
♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ Road
♦♦♦♦♦ALE Q 4♦♦♦

Dear Sir/Madam,
                               RE: TAAS SERVICE PROSERPINE

We write in recognition of the awesome service that we received from Proserpine TAAS and particularly staff Rebecca and Julie during a tenancy matter which stretched on for approximately 7 months through the Proserpine Magistrates Court.

We found ourselves renting a house at ♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ale, with an  underground cellar which the owner neglected to mention floods with approximately 14000 litres of whenever it rains. By the time we realized what was going on the water had been sitting in the cellar for approx 5 weeks and as the house was completely made of wood the wood acted as a wick and the entire house soaked up this water and was damp and then moldy (sic). This mould then attacked our furniture and personal belongings leaving us with a loss of approximately $81,000 as assessed by our contents insurance provider. The house also had several roof leaks one which was particularly damaging as it leaked into the main bedroom wardrobe.

The owners were ordered to rectify the issues but failed to do so before we left.  After asking the magistrate to terminate the lease, we vacated the property on 30th December 2012, the owners immediately re-rented the property.

The courts awarded us a rent reduction for the duration of the tenancy, reimbursed us for costs eg. pumping the cellar and ensured that we received our bond back at the end of the tenancy, without court intervention none of this would have occurred.

TAAS staff supported us Continue reading