Page 2695 - Week 07 - Thursday, 3 July 2008

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MR CORBELL: I move amendments Nos 1 and 2 circulated in my name together and table a supplementary explanatory statement to these government amendments [see schedule 1 at page 2784].

Speaking to both these amendments, amendment No 1 amends section 45 (2) (c) of the Human Rights Commission Act 2005 as a consequence of the inclusion of new subsections 45 (3) and (4), which deal with circumstances in which the commission need not consider a complaint and subsequently need not notify the person complained about. Government amendment No 1 is a minor technical amendment which replaces an inaccurate cross-reference to section 45 (3) with a correct cross-reference to section 45 (4).

Amendment No 2 amends section 48 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 so that the Residential Tenancies Tribunal has an explicit power to make a termination and possession order in the event of a tenant breach of a specific performance order made previously by the court. A specific performance order obliges a party to fulfil their contractual obligations under the lease. The amendment to section 48 effectively creates a second chance for tenants in breach of their tenancy agreement to rectify the behaviour which led to the breach and prevent an eviction order and provides parties in the tribunal with additional options to an application for eviction.

This amendment restores the second chance for tenants which was previously created by the use of conditional termination and possession orders under section 42 of the act. The Supreme Court recently ruled that conditional termination and possession orders may only be used in rental abuse cases, leaving landlords in the tribunal with few options other than an application for eviction in the event of other breaches of the agreement.

This government amendment inserts new section 48 (1) (b)—another matter to be considered by the tribunal where a termination and possession order is sought in response to a breach of a specific performance order. New paragraph (iii) of section 48 (1) (b) requires the tribunal to be satisfied that the breach of the specific performance order justifies the termination of the tenancy. This requirement is consistent with other sections in the act which deal with the same matters. I commend the amendments to the Assembly.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (12.28): We have no problem at all with the first amendment. We have a few concerns in relation to the second one. We are a bit concerned that this may counter, to the point of negativing, the amendments that the government introduced in March. We are concerned that it has the potential to make it very difficult for landlords to evict bad tenants. The amendments introduced in March were reasonable and would have relieved the need for landlords to take all other eviction matters to court rather than to the RTT. This amendment introduces subjectivity to the RTT’s decision making.

We are concerned that there is the potential for the RTT and the Supreme Court, on appeal, to make rulings that will make it virtually impossible for a landlord to evict a bad tenant. Indeed, that would effectively put the whole thing right back into court and negate the very purpose of the initial amendments.

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