Legislative Council Thursday 27 September 2018
Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I agree with the member for Elwick and other members who said this is a good piece of legislation. I commend the Government on bringing it forward.
Some of the amendments are necessary to deal with the changes the NDIS has brought, which is fine. I understand other legislation will come forward dealing with similar aspects related to the NDIS.
The other significant change is the change in circumstances of family violence, and that is a really positive and commendable action to be taken by the Government. I commend them on that.
Personally I do not own any rental properties so I speak here completely unencumbered by that potential conflict. It is really important to remember that victims of family violence, predominantly women, often have to run, and run quickly. They have to do it at very short notice, almost with just the clothes they are standing in. They have to get to somewhere safe and they have to get somewhere where their partner cannot necessarily find them.
Very recently I have been dealing with a couple of cases, trying to assist women experiencing family violence to access secure housing or places where they can feel safe. It is frightening what some of these women are dealing with -
Mr Willie - There are often kids involved too.
Ms FORREST- Yes. These women have children, young children. I really cannot even begin to imagine the fear these women live under, when you get an actual threat to your life. We really need to do what we can to assist these women and that is what is happening out there.
It is very appropriate we assist these victims of family violence. They often come with just the clothes they are standing in and with children in tow as well. Often they have also been victims of financial abuse where they have not been provided with money. They have not been allowed to have their own money. Even if they have earned it, they have not been able to have access to it, so they are not in a position where they can pay a bond.
This is a really good move to enable them to be able to pay the bond in instalments and to assist victims of family violence into suitable housing. I acknowledge that government - previous and current - has put in mechanisms to assist women fleeing family violence in terms of counselling, access to services that can actually create a safe room in their houses they can lock themselves in if they need to. Imagine having to lock yourself in a safe room in your own home? Can you imagine what that would be like? Making sure it was close enough to where you might be in the house to get there. That is one of the circumstances I am dealing with, with one of the women I am helping. I cannot imagine how it would be to live like that.
Of course, we need to balance the rights of tenants and the rights of landlords, and it has always been a fine balance. Some will argue that there need to be more protections for landlords and some will argue there needs to be more protections for tenants.
Overall, the legislation is pretty good. There is always tweaking that may need to be done around the edges, but overall it is pretty good. We have all heard the horror stories about tenants trashing the place, not paying their rent and doing a runner. A former member for Elwick talked about his rental property: when the tenants left, they were not happy with the circumstances of their leaving, so they clogged up the sink, turned the tap on in the top floor and left; the whole place was flooded. Tenants can do some pretty bad things, but so can landlords. I have seen and heard stories from tenants of pretty shocking landlords and disgraceful conditions people are forced to live in because there is no other option.
We need to strengthen some of those requirements, but it is more about policing it as much as whether the framework is adequate or not.
The member for Mersey will speak about this more in the Committee stage, but I understand this amendment is to assist landlords in many respects as much as it to assist the victims of family violence. I will be interested to hear his comments on that. I do not think it is detrimental to landlords.
Mr Gaffney - No, not at all.
Ms FORREST - The member for Windermere was suggesting he liked it without the amendment, because he thought your amendment was detrimental to landlords, but I do not believe it is the case.
Mr Dean - I did not say that. Please read Hansard. What I said was that I support it because I thought it was a good amendment.
Ms FORREST - I thought you said you supported it as it was. You were talking about that amendment, sorry. I stand corrected, because I thought you were talking about the amendment bill.
Mr Dean - Thank you. If you had listened, you would have known.
Ms Previous FORREST- I was listening, but I misunderstood what you said and I am apologising. You do not need to keep on.
Mr Dean - I support the amendment; let us hear the end of it.
Ms FORREST - You cannot accept an apology!
Mr Dean - You raised it; I did not.
Ms FORREST - I will be interested to hear more of what the member for Mersey has to say. I understand he has done a significant degree of consultation around the impacts.
It is appropriate landlords should not collect and hold bonds prior to depositing them with the RDA. This is for all the obvious reasons, as some landlords cannot be trusted to deposit the money and landlords as an individual as opposed to Housing Connect or some other provider of social housing do not have to have their accounts audited - they do not have set up trusts to deposit the money in prior to transferring to the Rental Deposit Authority.
The member for Windermere raised that this can be a barrier for some people on low incomes, victims of family violence or in challenging circumstances who may not have the wherewithal to pay a bond up-front. There are other ways to fix this: maybe the RDA can accept part-payment directly rather than having only the landlord collect the full bond.
Mr Dean - There is nothing in the act.
Ms FORREST- No. I am suggesting there could be other ways to fix it rather than suggesting it should be the same for private landlords to take the instalments and hold the money. Some landlords cannot be trusted to keep the money and they certainly do not have to set up a trust. That is the difference. When money is in a trust account, the process is you cannot use it as something else. Property agents and social housing providers have to follow this process, which is referred to in the bill. I suggest there is more than one way to fix a problem.
Overall, I do agree with the member for Elwick - the legislation does not remove red tape. I will be interested to hear how the Leader answers the question. The legislation will create other opportunities for easier access to social housing, particularly for victims of family violence. That is a good thing, but it does not reduce red tape. It just provides another opportunity.
Mr Valentine - It is more administrative work. You cannot reduce it.
Ms FORREST - It is creating an administrative burden for the social housing provider, not the Rental Deposit Authority. It is a big stretch to say it is actually reduces red tape and I will be interested in hearing the answer.
Mr Willie - Incremental bonds and also limiting rent increases are adding another layer.
Ms FORREST - Yes, that is the other thing. Overall, it is a good bill and I commend the Government for bringing it forward. I will listen to the debate on the member for Mersey's amendment. I commend the work the Government continues to do in the area of family violence in particular.