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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (8 August) . . Page.. 2614 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

We support Mr Hird's motion and we support Mr Rugendyke's amendment because it is appropriate that police get the credit that they deserve, not the faint praise that they get so grudgingly from the ALP.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

Public housing-rent increases

MR WOOD (5.31): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I move:

That the Assembly urges the Minister for Housing to increase rents on public housing in an appropriate manner and not impose hardship by sudden or dramatic increases.

Through ACT Housing, the government is the largest landlord in the ACT, and it should be a model landlord. From 26 May 1998 the ACT has had new tenancy laws under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, which I will describe as the RTA. These tenancy laws applied immediately to new ACT Housing tenancies, and existing tenancies have been covered since July 2000. These laws are designed to protect both landlords and tenants through their ability to access the Residential Tenancy Tribunal on a range of matters, such as evictions, maintenance and rent increases.

On my reading of that act-and I will await with interest Mr Moore's interpretation; we have already differed once today-the rent increases are covered by part 5 of the Residential Tenancies Act. Specifically, section 68 of the Residential Tenancies Act sets out the definition of an excessive rent increase. It states that rent increases in excess of 20 per cent greater than CPI increases need to be justified by the lessor. According to the latest CPI figures from the ABS, the upper limit on this increase is marginally over 5 per cent. Hence the average rent increase of 9.8 per cent that the minister boasted of in his press release seems to me to be nearly double the reasonable increase.

If I take as an example a rent of $200 a week on a tenancy that began in March 2000-and I know that is a high rent for ACT Housing-under the formula in the act the maximum increase should be $11.71. Any increase higher than that should be justified by the landlord, and the onus is in the landlord to convince the Tribunal why it should be permitted. That is my interpretation of the process. Yet I have heard of rent increases of $30 a week in Spence, $26 a week in Yarralumla, $34 a week in Griffith and $30 a week in Curtin. It seems to me that, under the RTA formula, all of these increases are clearly excessive. I believe that all those increases were improperly imposed.

Further, the tenants have one common complaint-lack of routine maintenance. Time and time again, I hear, "My house has had nothing done to it for years. Why should I pay this large increase?" I will be interested to hear the justification. As a model responsible landlord, surely any rent increases proposed by ACT Housing should conform to the provisions of the act. Am I wrong in my interpretations?

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