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Property Agents and Land Transactions Amendment Bill 2019

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 17 September 2020

Tags: Housing, Legislation, First Home Buyers

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Welcome to the Chair, Mr Ellis.

Mr Deputy Speaker, the Greens are not going to be voting against this legislation, but it is another failed and missed opportunity to provide consumer protections around the sale of residential houses and land. It is another amendment bill that prioritises real estate agents and the propertied class over consumers, everyday Tasmanians, who are buying a home.

Let us remember that when you buy your first home it is one of the most significant, important and life-changing decisions that you make. You should, in that process, be supported by strong legislation and regulations to make sure, for example, that you are not buying a home that is unliveable or condemned; you are not buying a home that has significant amounts of asbestos in it which you did not know about when you bought the property because caveat emptor - buyer beware - there is no requirement on the part of an agent to let you know that asbestos has been found in that home. It is a matter of public record, an historical record, that in 2013 the then minister for corrections and consumer protections, Nick McKim, introduced the residential property transactions bill that provided for vendor disclosure. It ensured that there was a five-day cooling-off period after a contract was entered into.

The current bill provides no consumer protections. It is one thing to say that you require an agent to undertake a registered training course in order to be an agent. That is no measure of protection for consumers. In that period, when you had a reformist minister who was prepared to put everyday Tasmanians first there was a provision for a standard form for the sale of residential real estate. Do we have a standard form for the sale of residential real estate in Tasmania? I do not believe so.

The 2013 legislation, which was not supported by the Liberal Party and did not pass the upper House, attempted to strike a balance between mandatory disclosure and giving consumers the opportunity to make further relevant inquiries. The bill required a vendor to attach some basic information to a contract for sale such as the relevant title documents and a 337 council certificate. I need to hear the Attorney-General's comment.

Ms Archer - I was wondering, you were in Government. It did get to the upper House. Now I know what you mean.

Ms O'CONNOR - It was the now Senator McKim's legislation. It went through this place, it was not supported by the opposition at the time and did not pass the upper House. There was very fierce lobbying by vested interests within the real estate and property industry not to have the bill take effect because it would have tipped the scale more towards everyday Tasmanians who were entering into these life-changing contracts to purchase a residential home.

Ms Butler - Other states have it, it is just part of a process. It's a vendor disclosure, it's that simple.

Ms O'CONNOR - Exactly. We are a standout again in the country for not having vendor disclosure provisions in place in our laws. All of the risk is carried by the purchaser, because of how little is required to be provided or disclosed by the agent.

The legislation that went through this place is 2013 required the vendor of a residential property or residential land to give certain documents to the purchaser together with the contract of sale. These documents were to have included a copy of the relevant folio, the register, or in the case of a general law system land, a copy of the last conveyance or mortgage, a copy of the title plan for the property, a local government 337 certificate, a copy of the last local government rates notice for the property, a copy of all easements and covenants, a copy of any agreement with the planning authority that would affect the future use of the property and a copy of the section 56ZQ certificate for water supply and sewerage.

The intent of the legislation was to address illegal building works and to identify issues with the structure and general state of a building, so that the buyer who was entering into this contract and committing themselves to many years of paying off a mortgage knew exactly what they were committing themselves to, they knew what they were buying.

Now we still have a framework which is written by and for the Real Estate Institute, where consumers are not adequately protected. It is shameful that this parliament, over seven years, has repeatedly prioritised the propertied class over everyday Tasmanians. If you go to buy a home this information should be very basic to you. I do not understand why there is such resistance in the Liberal Party to providing those consumer protections.

I do not understand why the Liberal Government thinks that a framework of buyer beware is adequate. It is not. The whole system is heavily weighted towards real estate agents and property owners and it is weighted against people who are buying a property, buying their first home, buying a block or a shack.

While we will not vote against this bill, just let the record show it is another missed opportunity. It leaves everyday Tasmanians in the lurch and on their own in buying a home or a property that is not a commercial property. I hope one day there is a government that comes into this place that recognises the fairness of having a framework that balances those rights and does something about it instead of constantly being beholden to lobby groups and the big end of town.

It was David Llewellyn who, as the minister for - he had so many portfolios, none of them was he very good at - consumer protection, from memory, initially blocked the section 10 vendor disclosure provisions that would have required a vendor and an agent to disclose that their home was full of asbestos, for example.

This goes back a long way, where you have had the government of the day putting to one side consumer protections in favour of the big end of town. It is interesting, and sadly, ironic, that it is legislation that is being introduced by the minister for consumer protection. There is nothing in this legislation today that provides stronger protections for consumers, for property buyers in Tasmania.

Let us remember we are not a wealthy island. When people make that commitment, it is a deep and lasting commitment. It requires courage to commit yourself or your family to paying off a mortgage. The law should provide support and protection for you from unscrupulous sellers and real estate agents. We can pretend that they do not exist, but they do.

I may not be here in this place when a government sees the light and stops putting business, business and more business into legislation over consumer protections. How interesting, in just a few clauses, pages 8 and 9, the word 'business' appears in this section 14 times and there is not one mention of consumers. That tells you everything you need to know about what a woeful effort this piece of legislation is.