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Housing Tasmania - Eviction of Tenants

7 August 2019

Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for HOUSING, Mr JAENSCH

You kicked off Homelessness Week yesterday by claiming evictions of Housing Tasmania tenants are always a last resort and only occur if a tenant seriously and repeatedly breaches their tenancy agreement. Can you confirm how many of the 20 tenants that we raised yesterday who were evicted without being afforded procedural fairness were provided with three strikes, as set out in Housing Tasmania policy? Could you also confirm whether any of the 20 tenants who were evicted was then served with a notice to vacate outlining the breach?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. I answered the question yesterday and there were many parts to the question today. I need to confirm again that the Director of Housing will be responding directly to the Tenants' Union regarding claims that have been raised in their letter to me. I am advised that the director does not intend at this stage to review the other eviction matters and they have been appropriately determined by the courts.

The other matters raised in the letter from the Tenants' Union of Tasmania have taken some investigation because they make claims and allegations regarding a number of cases. Our Director of Housing has investigated and provided me with advice that Housing Tasmania will not be reviewing those other eviction matters because they have been determined by the courts and no further action is necessary or warranted.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker, under standing order 45. I know you cannot tell the minister what to say but he has obfuscated and said there are lots of questions in our question. There is not. We need to know how many of those 20 tenants who were evicted were afforded procedural fairness, and how many were given a notice to vacate. He is repeating what he said yesterday.

Madam SPEAKER - As you know, Ms O'Connor, I have to rule against that but I have allowed you to put it on Hansard.

Mr JAENSCH - I can confirm that evictions are a matter of absolutely last resort -

Ms O'Connor - I do not believe you.

Mr JAENSCH - for Housing Tasmania tenants. We have a management approach which is geared to supporting people in tenancies in Housing Tasmania properties to maintain their tenancies using a three strikes approach -

Ms O'Connor - How many of the tenants were given three strikes?

Mr JAENSCH - to manage the breach of tenancy agreement issues as they arise. It gives the tenants the opportunity to rectify any breaches in their tenancy agreement that have been identified with a view to avoiding notice to vacate as a last resort. Tenants are provided always with clear information about their responsibilities and consequences for breaches or continued behaviours which constitute breaches. We have two tenancy intervention officers whose job it is to assist tenants with multiple and complex issues which may affect their ability to meet their responsibilities under their tenancy agreement, to work with them and support them.

Ms O'Connor - Point of order, Madam Speaker. Standing order 45, if the minister does not have the information on the 20 tenants perhaps he could commit to coming back into the House later and providing that.

Madam SPEAKER - Again, it is not a point of order, but I will leave that for the minister to decide.

Ms O'Connor - Well, could the minister to that.

Madam SPEAKER - Thank you, minister.

Mr JAENSCH - Madam Speaker, I can confirm that this three strikes approach often results in changed behaviour before we need to proceed to that last resort of a notice to vacate. As at the end of March this year, 25 tenants had received a first strike under the three strikes program, 13 a second, and eight a third strike for the 2018-19 year. This shows that this intervention, this process of working with people to maintain their tenancies -

Dr Woodruff - You are deliberately and wilfully refusing to answer this question.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff.

Mr JAENSCH - and improve their behaviour or their compliance with their conditions of their tenancy is working and does have an effect on the way people conduct themselves.

Dr Woodruff - The High Court found you out.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff.

Mr JAENSCH - When it comes to antisocial behaviour, Housing Tasmania is committed to upholding the right of all citizens and all of our tenants to the quiet enjoyment of their properties. Unfortunately, antisocial behaviour does occur from time to time in our community. It can involve both social housing and residents of privately-owned properties and it can adversely affect the lives of people residing in the surrounding area. We have very limited legal means to influence tenant behaviour but we do invest significant time and energy in managing it and supporting tenants to interact appropriately with their neighbours.

Ms O'Connor - You have not answered the question.

Mr JAENSCH - Housing Tasmania tenants are encouraged to establish positive relationships with their neighbours and we frequently work in conjunction with other organisations, including Tasmanian Police and local government who have legislative roles, statutory roles in managing anti-social behaviour as well -

Ms O'Connor - Can you come back to the House on those 20 tenants?

Mr JAENSCH - and trigger neighbourhood disputes. As at 31 March, three tenants have been evicted for antisocial behaviour for this financial year.

Ms O'Connor - We are talking about the ones who are evicted on lease expiry.

Mr JAENSCH - Evictions due to arrears: sometimes tenants can be evicted for rental arrears and, as with all responses, considerable effort is made to remedy this. This is why Tasmania has the lowest level of social housing rental arrears in the country right now. Evictions do go up and down over the years we maintain that they are an absolute last resort. We assist people wherever we can and we comply with our obligations under the Residential Tenancy Act and the additional provisions that we have in place through the three strikes process.

I will examine the Hansard to see if there is additional information I am able to provide in response to Ms O'Connor. An absolute last resort, our tenants are people we have responsibility for over and above our legal responsibilities as landlord. We do everything we can to assist them to manage their tenancies and to be good neighbours as well for the people around them.