21 November 2018
(Bills - Second Reading Debate, Legislative Assembly, Parliament House)
Mr ALEX GREENWICH (Sydney) (11:51): I will limit my contribution to the Fair Trading Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill, which makes a number of changes affecting tenancy law. I strongly welcome provisions under the bill to establish a system in which bonds can roll over from one tenancy to another.
A bond can create serious hardship for tenants when they move. Bond is often due at a time when double rent is being paid, moving costs are being incurred—including hiring removalists and connecting utilities—and new furniture and home goods are being bought. This all happens while the bond from a previous tenancy cannot be accessed. The situation can lead many tenants to go to expensive lenders and loan sharks. A rollover system could ease pressure on tenants who need to or choose to move and it is a sensible approach. However, the details of the system are not provided in the bill. I understand the Government is working through the details. I ask that the Government work with tenant advocates to ensure that the system is workable.
I am concerned that this bill repeals the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act without adequate succession arrangements. The Act covers a small number of old residential leasing arrangements. Tenants under these arrangements are known as protected tenants and about 200 remain. They are generally elderly, frail and poor, and have lived in a privately leased home for decades. Their homes are generally run down, and have not been renovated since before the tenants moved in. Protected tenants have a security of tenure that is not available under standard private residential tenancy agreements. They can be evicted only in certain prescribed circumstances, which exclude no grounds evictions and their rent is considerably lower than market rent rates.
While the bill includes succession arrangements for protected tenants and their spouses, it appears that children who live with a parent who is a protected tenant will no longer inherit protected tenant status. Inheriting protected tenancy status currently occurs only when a child is living with their parent and is on a pension at the time of their parent's death. This means few people will be covered. However, those who are covered are poor and vulnerable, and likely will become homeless if they do not inherit protections from their parents. While not as old as their parents, children of protected tenants are generally also ageing and have few options if they lose their stable fair rent or are evicted.
While the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales supports the repeal of the Act, it acknowledges that a small number of people rely on its protections to survive and that they will require new housing so they do not become homeless. The Government has given no indication that it will provide housing to children of protected tenants who are evicted as a result of this bill. People on the social housing waiting list wait about a decade to get a home. This forces thousands of people to live in unsafe housing arrangements like boarding houses, to couch surf or sleep rough. I ask the Government to continue the existing and limited succession rights to children of protected tenants. I understand the Opposition will move an amendment of that nature.
The bill streamlines the uncollected goods regime, which includes moving provisions that regulate uncollected goods for tenants from the Residential Tenancies Act to the Uncollected Goods Act. The result is that tenants, landlords and real estate agents will have to deal with more legislation, which is not ideal. Under the proposed new provisions, landlords and real estate agents will be required to value any goods left behind in premises. They do not have the expertise to do this and I am concerned that this process will only lead to disputes. The proposed changes also fail to transfer provisions for uncollected goods in share houses when a co‑tenant leaves and another stays. This is a common occurrence and the new regime must address such situations. Currently the goods are not deemed to be in the possession of the landlord and this would not be an appropriate outcome. Tenants represent more than 60 per cent of households in my electorate. I ask the Minister to respond to these concerns in his reply. I join the shadow Minister in thanking the Minister for his consultative approach to this complex legislation throughout his term. Both he and his office have worked extremely well with me and with Tammie, who works with me. I thank him for that approach.