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?

Why keeping services for tenants open is important – a radio interview!

Belinda Sanders

ABC Southern Qld – Mornings with Belinda Sanders

In an interview with ABC local radio Southern Queensland the Tenants’ Union puts a strong argument about why tenants need and deserve access to independent advice services. We found this audio link on the TUQ website with the following correction:

“When Penny said there were 57 hours of advocacy in the last full year of funding, she meant to say 24,000 hours“. 

See you at the markets this weekend!

This weekend Save Tenant Services campaigners will be out and about at local markets to help spread the word about the issues facing tenants in Qld concerned with the loss of services.

We will be asking market goers to sign letters to the Qld Premier, Campbell Newman, to pass on a small amount of tenants’ bond interest to fund a tenant advice service for Qld tenants and the Federal Attorney-General, George Brandis to keep tenants advice services alive until the Qld Govt returns the funding.

For the next two weekends we’ll be at Rocklea Sunday Markets – head over to say g’day. After that we’ll be at Mt Gravatt, Manly and West End (Davies Park) Markets.

We’re still inviting supporters to help us with the markets, visit your local MP, distribute information to friends and neighbours etc. If you’d like to help with the campaign, please let us know on the volunteer form.

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.


Please extend the Federal emergency funding to tenant services

The Federal Government acknowledged the importance of the tenant advice and advocacy services that have existed in Qld for over 20 years and provided emergency money after the Qld Government diverted away the small percentage of tenants’ own bond interest that had provided the funding for these services.

With no long term solution available from the Newman Government as yet we must ask that the Federal Government extends its funding until the Qld Government is prepared to give its commitment to independent tenant advice and advocacy services.

Please send an email request to the Federal Attorney General.

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

Gold Coast tenant helped to avoid unfair eviction by advice service – a tenant’s story

After having problems getting maintenance done on her rented home then being unfairly treated by the agent, Marie* sought help from her local independent Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service. The Service helped her through the process of a QCAT hearing to achieve a fair outcome. This is her story.

Help save tenant services

*not her real name