Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 06 Hansard (Tuesday, 5 June 2018) . . Page.. 1994 ..
We introduced a legislative stay on these products last year so that more work could be done to develop an appropriate regulatory regime. And since that time we undertook two further rounds of community consultations, including an open consultation on 20 October 2017 for three weeks and further targeted consultation on exposure draft regulations. During that consultation it became clear that real questions about the impact of these products on vulnerable tenants remained to be addressed. The role of debt collection agencies, the rights of tenants to dispute amounts owed and the rights of lessors, in dealing with these companies, need to be more thoroughly examined. Accordingly, this bill reintroduces that legislative stay.
I would like to thank the Tenants Union, Better Renting and Care Financial Counselling Service in particular for their engagement during this process. Their practical experience in helping tenants and people with financial issues has informed the government’s position on bond alternatives and will continue to inform its policy on residential tenancy reform more broadly.
Turning to the way that this bill improves ACAT’s ability to deal with unpaid rent, these amendments respond to concerns that were raised with the government by Canberra Community Law about conditional termination and possession orders, or CTPOs. CTPOs are essentially a tribunal-ordered payment plan for rent. They are not made with very high frequency. And most of them are made in relation to public housing tenants. Last year, for example, the ACAT made 35 of these orders.
Today’s bill does not mean that all tenants and lessors will have a completely different experience where there is unpaid rent. It only applies to limited situations where the ACAT has looked at a rental dispute and then, in turn, has decided that a payment plan rather than any other alternative is the correct way forward.
The existing legislation has in practice created problems for both tenants and lessors. And these problems were highlighted in the Supreme Court case of the Commission for Social Housing v Moffatt. In that case, the then Master Mossop found that legal rights and responsibilities of lessors and tenants became unclear whenever a CTPO was breached, and His Honour suggested that legislation should be amended.
Through consultation with Canberra Community Law and the Real Estate Institute of the ACT, or REIACT, we developed the amendments in the bill to resolve the uncertainty. Also, in response to the decision by then Master Mossop and our consultations, what this bill does is establish a new way of managing rental arrears called a payment order.
The payment order process has been designed to provide certainty to both parties, tenants and lessors alike. It is a fundamental misunderstanding of the provisions and it is quite inaccurate to characterise this as a disincentive for landlords. It provides certainty for both. The key difference from the existing process—
Mrs Dunne: It is certain that the landlords will lose money.
Mr Wall: And carry more risk.