Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 15 March 2005 2005) . . Page.. 982 ..
The bill provides for the minister to declare crisis accommodation providers only if they provide accommodation for people in crisis and if they provide information about alternative accommodation services. It provides that declared accommodation providers can terminate a tenancy with four weeks’ notice if the premises are needed for crisis accommodation for someone other than the tenant and if the tenant has been give alternative accommodation information. This negates the need for crisis accommodation providers to seek endorsement each time before the tribunal.
The issue of databases is a controversial one and the bill provides for the restriction of public databases giving personal information about previous tenants. It allows an individual to apply to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal to have their personal information on the database omitted or corrected. The opposition notes that this is based on the Queensland provisions. Information on a database has to be timely, accurate and accessible. Practical effects of this are yet to be seen. While there are two national databases for the use of lessors, they tend not to relate to the ACT. Individual agents have their own databases and ACT Housing has its own database.
Whilst it is very important that information is timely, accurate and accessible, it is also desirable and only fair that difficult tenants—tenants who do not pay rent and cause damage—should have that recorded on a database so that some poor unsuspecting private landlord will not be lumbered with a tenant who would wreck their property. At present, ACT Housing is able to assess on its database and files which tenants are difficult when it comes to re-allocating public housing. There are some concerns in the industry and we will be watching it very closely to see how it operates. There are conflicting rights issues here but the right to privacy should not outweigh the rights of an innocent law-abiding citizen to be not lumbered with a person who will not pay rent and who will destroy the property.
The opposition notes that there are some good provisions in this bill, which will assist all parties specifically the provision to allow a tenancy of a lessor posted back to Canberra or a tenant posted from Canberra to be terminated following four weeks’ notice. This is terribly important as a lot of Canberrans are posted from the territory from time to time and at present posting clauses can only be endorsed by the Residential Tenancies Tribunal. By being able to have a clause included in residential tenancy agreements, this will streamline the process.
The bill also allows ACT Housing to set rents at a rate that will reflect the additional costs of past debt which will reduce to their usual rate as it is repaid. This is a sensible provision, and I understand it is something ACT Housing has already been doing. The bill provides that the Residential Tenancies Tribunal has to endorse such arrangements. This seems reasonable.
The opposition welcomes the provisions dealing with evictions. The bill provides that the Residential Tenancies Tribunal can evict a tenant who has been seriously or continuously interfering with a neighbour’s quiet enjoyment of their property. That is consistent with the existing standards in the residential tenancies agreement which states that a tenant shall not interfere with the quiet enjoyment of a nearby occupier’s premises. The bill also clarifies when evictions can occur, which we have no problems with. Most of us in the Assembly would have been contacted by neighbours who have had huge problems with