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Housing Tasmania - Eviction of Tenants

Parliamentary Activity - Tuesday, 6 August 2019, Cassy O'Connor MP


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

It is National Homelessness Week. As you know, homelessness, housing and security and soaring rents are on rise, particularly since 2014. We know the Supreme Court delivered a thorough rebuke to your agency, Housing Tasmania, for evicting tenants without good cause into homelessness. We also know that throughout the court proceedings Housing Tasmania was continuing to evict tenants on the basis of lease expiry. The Tenants' Union has written to you about this detailing at least 20 households evicted in that manner. Could you please explain Housing Tasmania's actions in relation to these 20 households and further, what changes have you ensured are made to Housing Tasmania's policies to prevent it evicting tenants into homelessness as it has under your Government?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, in response to the matters raised in the member's question, I am advised that the Director of Housing will be responding to the Tenants' Union of Tasmania's claims regarding the matter. I am advised that the director does not intend at this stage to review the other eviction matters raised by the Tenants' Union of Tasmania. These have been appropriately determined by the courts and no further action is deemed to be warranted. As I have said previously, Housing Tasmania has also advised they do not intend to appeal the recent court decision.

I reiterate that evictions are always a last resort. A notice to vacate only occurs if a tenant seriously and repeatedly breaches their tenancy agreement. Housing Tasmania will continue to manage its tenancies in line with the Residential Tenancy Act and work closely with its tenants to maintain their tenancies. Eviction is an action of last resort and only occurs if a tenant seriously and repeatedly breaches their tenancy agreement.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I make this representation on behalf of Gregory Parsons and the other tenants who were evicted because of their lease expiry. It is untrue for the minister to say evictions are a last resort.

Madam SPEAKER - That is not a point of order either, Ms O'Connor.

Mr JAENSCH - If a tenant takes reasonable steps to remedy breaches such as entering into arrangements to pay off arrears, eviction action can be stopped. Tenants are provided with clear information about their responsibilities and potential consequences for continued behaviours.

We remain committed to supporting those in greatest need to maintain their social housing tenancies. We are a social landlord. We are providing for those who are -

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I very cautiously raise this point of order under standing order 45. For Housing Tasmania tenants, could the minister please explain how the court decision changed its policies?

Madam SPEAKER - That is not a point of order but the minister may wish to answer it.

Mr JAENSCH - Housing Tasmania demonstrates its commitment to supporting those in greatest need to maintain their tenancies by using a 'three strikes' approach to managing any breach of tenancy agreement issues. This management approach gives tenants the opportunity to rectify breaches of tenancy agreement issues with a view to avoiding notices to vacate actions. Tenants are provided with clear information about their responsibilities and consequences.

Housing Tasmania employs two tenancy intervention officers to assist tenants with multiple complex issues to engage with supports in the community and to work towards addressing issues which place their tenancy at risk. The 'three strikes' approach often results in changed behaviour before person received a notice to vacate. As of 31 March 2019, 25 tenants had received a first strike, 13 a second strike and eight a third strike for the 2018-19 year. These numbers show that tenants often choose to change their behaviour through this process.

We remain committed to looking after Tasmanians who cannot by themselves maintain a tenancy in the private market. We provide housing for 12 000 households across Tasmania through a combination of public and community housing. We provide supported accommodation and assistance to those who are in our housing system to maintain their tenancies where they might not be able to in the private market. We work under the Residential Tenancy Act. We employ special management provisions to assist people to maintain their tenancies above and beyond the requirements of the act and will continue to do so in Homelessness Week and every other week of the year.