TQ calls on all political parties to support independent tenant advice

New Qld Parliament 2012Tenants Queensland has asked all political parties to commit to funding for independent tenant advice services.  They say the increasing and on-going demand speaks for itself.  Read their press release here.

They also say that the Residential Tenancies Authority has given the state government $35M in grants from tenant bond monies over the last two years.  See the statistics at the bottom of the press release.

Why govt reasons for withdrawing tenant advice funding are wrong

HANDS OFF poster 01-01The State government has responded to questions about the withdrawal of tenancy advice funding in a variety of ways since last year.  The following outlines why these responses fail to negate the need to have independent tenant advice services in Queensland.

It’s a good program but we can’t afford it
  • $45M in interest was generated on tenants bonds last financial year while they were held in trust by the government authority – the program is not a drain on taxpayers, it is self-funded.
  • The entire statewide program of tenancy advice could be run at the level it was prior to funding withdrawal on less than 15% of the interest generated last year, i.e. less than $7M per year.
  • Increased numbers of people are entering and remaining in the private rental sector for longer periods of time.  The value of tenant bonds, and the interest generated, is increasing every year.  As a community, we are better able, not less able, to support an independent tenancy advice service with this interest.
  • Withdrawing support for tenants to understand their rights and responsibilities is likely to cost the government in the long run as people will fall out of the private rental sector  and increase demand for social housing and homelessness services
It’s a duplication of what the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) does
  • The role of the RTA requires them to be impartial, they do not give advice or advocate for any party to a tenancy agreement.
  • The average call to the RTA information service takes less than 5 minutes.  The average call to a tenant advice service is 54 minutes because they go into the specific details of the client’s situation and provide advice not simply information.
  • Tenant advice services will increase the level of support and see clients face to face when required.  Staff at the RTA are unable to do this.  In the last year of state funding, tenant advice services provided 24,000 hours of representation for Queensland tenants to their landlords, real estate agents or in the tenancy tribunal.  The RTA do not do this.
  • The Qld Commission of Audit said the government shouldn’t provide a service unless there is no other efficient alternative.  The decision to expand a centralised government service at the expense of outsourced community-based services contradicts this.
  • The government said it would retain front line services.  Tenant advice services are front line services – they are available in local communities across the state rather than the central Brisbane location of the government authority.
Community Legal Centres (CLCs) can pick up any unmet need when tenant advice services are no longer available
  • There is a lot of research about the overwhelming demand for CLC services both in Queensland and nationally, they simply do not have the capacity to meet the needs of a new client group. Continue reading

Debunking the duplication argument

The Housing Minister, Minister Mander, says that tenant advice services duplicate the role of the government’s Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA).  But did you know that in the last year of state government funding the services spent 24,000 hours representing the interests of individual Queensland tenants to their landlords, real estate agents or in the tenancy tribunal?

Hands on front line work delivered in local communities across the state.  Something that the impartial, Brisbane CBD based RTA does not and cannot do! Does that sound like duplication to you?

Where will those Queenslanders go for help after December 31?

Tasmanian tenants get minimum standards – congratulations!!!

Reprinted from Tenants’ Union of Tasmania’s e-newsletter Rent Rant Spring edition 2013

Tenancy Bill Gets Through Upper HouseTUT

Tasmania will be the first state or territory to have legislated minimum standards for residential tenancies, following the successful passage of the Residential Tenancy Amendment Bill (Tasmania) through the Upper House last Thursday.

The proposed minimum standards listed below went through unscathed but not without much discussion and some dissent. The standards require all tenanted properties to be:

  • Weatherproof and structurally sound
  • Clean and in good repair • Equipped with bathroom and toilet
  • Serviced with a kitchen sink, hotplates and an oven (which can be a microwave)
  • Supplied with electricity and one fixed form of heating
  • Provided with curtains (except properties owned by Housing Tasmania)
  • Adequately ventilated

Your help needed to help save tenant advice services beyond December 2013


Save Tenant Services Icon
Help Save Tenant Advice Services before funding ends in December

Tenant advice services delivered by the Tenants’ Union of Queensland and 15 local tenant advice services across the state will cease to operate at the end of December unless the Newman government re-instates funding in the near future. We need your help now – find out what you can do here!

These independent services have operated for over 20 years. Less than 15% of the interest generated on tenants’ bonds had been used to fund these services through the Tenant Advice and Advocacy Service (TAAS) Program. That funding was withdrawn last year as a part of the Newman government’s budget cuts.

On October 3, 2012, three weeks before that withdrawal took effect, the Commonwealth Government stepped in to provide emergency funding until June 30 this year. As that date approached and with no long term solution found, the Commonwealth offered a funding extension until December 31. We now need a long term solution or services will close at the end of 2013.
Continue reading

Are you looking for tenancy advice?

Tenants'rights (2)Are you a tenant looking for advice?  We just noticed that the Tenants’ Union has updated the contact details for local tenancy advice services across the state – click here.

Services are still available thanks to six months’ emergency funding from the Federal government. Once we’ve had the chance to update our campaign we’ll be coming back to you to ask for your support to achieve on-going funding.

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

Hansard shows Parties urge state to accept $2.5M for TAAS

On June 6 in parliament, members of both the Labor Party and Katter’s Australian Party raised the issue of funding for tenant advice services, urging the Newman government to accept the Commonwealth’s $2.5M funding offer.  Read the Hansard record here.

Opposition Leader and member for Inala, Ms Annastacia Palaszczuk (p. 2069 last paragraph), said:

We also call on the government to pick up the phone and accept the federal government’s offer to fund the Tenant Advice and Advocacy Service. The cutting of TAAS funds is more politics from a government that is more interested in pushing Tony Abbott’s barrow than securing real outcomes for Queenslanders.

Later, member for Dalrymple, Shane Knuth (p. 2104 third paragraph), said: Continue reading