Campbell Newman has described tenants advice services as ‘a luxury we can’t afford’.
Where is the compassion?
Free tenancy advice for tenants is available through 23 community based services across the state. The Tenants’ Union of Queensland (TUQ) is also funded under the TAAS program. In the 2011/12 year, while providing 7,500 advices, the TUQ identified 1 in 7 clients to be at risk of homelessness.
Unless the state government makes an announcement to this effect in the near future, local tenant advice services will be closed by the end of the financial year and the TUQ will have to be restructured.
The TUQ’s advice line which now operates every day and two evenings could not be sustained.
In a year the TUQ provides about 7500 advices to tenants whilst collectively tenant advice services across the state assist around 80,000 households with about 100,000 advices either face to face or on the phone.
Tenants who have language or literacy issues, are upset because of the risk to their housing or who simply don’t understand the law will no longer be able to access assistance face to face to fill in forms, write letters to their agent or gain assistance in preparing or appearing in the Tribunal to resolve their tenancy dispute.
This is of serious concern to those in my local community who need to access such services.
Despite the previous Minister for Housing (Dr Bruce Flegg) saying tenants can go to the RTA, their services are not the same as those provided by the tenant advice services. The RTA often refers tenants onto the TUQ or a local tenancy advice service. The RTA provides information, not advice, to any party to a tenancy agreement.
The Queensland Government must immediately commit to funding for the Tenants’ Union of Queensland and the statewide network of local, independent tenant advice services.
Tenant advice services have been funded in one form or another since 1989 and provide vital support and assistance to tenants across the state.
These services will cease operation by June 30 if the Queensland Government does not announce funding in the near future. By committing as little as 15% of the interest generated annually on tenants’ bonds the entire network of services could be retained.
Unlike the Residential Tenancies Authority (which is fully funded from tenant bond interest) which must remain an impartial player in the industry, tenant advice services provide specialist and targeted services for tenants.
Without such services tenants will be more vulnerable to becoming homeless and will have their access to justice limited.
This is unacceptable. In addition to calling on the Queensland Government to reinstate funding, I call on LNP federal candidate for Moreton Malcolm Cole to question his LNP state colleagues on this issue.
Given the federal government was required to provide ‘prop up’ funding to the services, it’s not unreasonable for Malcolm to do start asking questions.
You can join the campaign to save tenants services in Queensland at www. savetenantservices.net.au.