union

Your home is your castle, so defend it.

thecastle Our little family have recently had a big battle on our hands, just to stay in our home, or as Darryl Kerrigan would say ‘our castle’. I would consider ourselves to be the kind of tenants I’d want for my investment property – we have the place professionally cleaned weekly, always pay rent on time, and are respectful to our home and neighbours. However, this was not enough for our landlords who gave us notice to leave without grounds, after an agreement was made to install air-conditioning. I’m sure any parent of an infant, that lives in a climate that can climb to temperatures over 30 Degrees Celsius would want air-conditioning. We agreed in writing to the new terms and increased rent, but the landlords decided in the last minute, after getting a quote, to not go ahead with it, plus kick us out to make sure they didn’t have to. I quickly found out we were dealing with people, who’s word meant nothing. For me personally, this was not good enough on all levels. A person is only worth their word, so I saw it my duty to fight this whim and injustice – and I won. I won’t go into the details, but basically a tribunal ruled in our favour, and the landlords were forced to keep to their word. And yes, I was very tempted to say ‘it’s just the vibe’ at the hearing, but in the end I thought it best not to.thecastle1

The reason I’m sharing this little story is because I could not have found the right words, to keep the landlords and agents to their word, without the help of our local Tenants Union Queensland. This is a free service that is available to all Queensland Tenants, and I gather there would be similar services for other regions. Tenancy Law can be a little vague and open-ended, and us tenants need to be pointed in the right direction to help us enforce our rights. I found our property managers to be inadequately trained in their own area of expertise, and do not realise, that what they are trying to enforce for a landlord, does in fact at times not align itself with Tenancy Law.

Our Queensland Election is coming up this weekend and I’ve done some research into the rights of tenants, and who is in favour of upholding those rights, and in turn who will do what is right, for us voting tenants. Basically, vote Labor or Greens, if you value your position and rights when it comes to renting. I have copied and pasted a letter below, that I recently wrote to our Labor member and Liberal MP. The response from Labor follows after my letter, to date I have received no response from Liberal, which is disappointing as it’s an important issue for his particular electorate.

Renters, we must unite and support our tenancy union, not just for us and our family, but for future families like us. We are no longer the trashy stereotype, and deserve to be heard and respected, especially considering the high rents we now pay. Feel free to copy and paste parts of my letter below to send off to your local members, as the service needs our support to gain more funding. It is in our interest to have a better funded union, as they are the only true body that represents and looks after us and our families, as renters.

It was only with the help of their invaluable service, that I can now get back to normal life and enjoy our castle, whilst helping Rory build his 🙂rorysittingup

You can find more about your rights and what Tenants Union Queensland can do for you at http://tenantsqld.org.au/

MY LETTER TO OUR LABOR CANDIDATE

Dear Ms Grace,

I am writing to you regarding the importance of Tenants Queensland Inc and their invaluable service that they provide to Queensland residents, particularly Brisbane Central.

Nearly half of the Brisbane Central electorate are renters and their voices need to be represented and heard. There are too many examples within this community detailing the incompetence of property managers, and unlawful conduct by landlords, who due to their careless and ill-informed actions, both disrespect and disregard tenants and their rights.

I have personally been subjected to such conduct, and was helped immensely by the Tenants Queensland. It is because of their service, that we, as a family with a 6 month old, do not have to vacate our home on a whim of a landlord. Originally unaware of our rights, I could not have represented myself without their guidance during the dispute. Fortunately Tenancy Law and common sense favoured our position, and we are now able to get on with normal life.

In this current property climate, many potential first home buyers are unable to enter the property market, and the population of local renters will only increase, especially with the domestic values being propped up by outside investment. All these local residents, both current and future renters, need access to representation and information specific to their particular dispute, should one arise.

I found the RTA does not offer such a personalised service, and steers clear of the specifics for an individual’s dispute. On the other hand, Tenants Queensland tailors the information to your individual needs. The RTA as an impartial administrative service works fine, but us local residents need more than that, we need someone with the capacity to be in our corner, fighting against tenancy injustices, and improving our set of precedents through the utilisation of QCAT and mediation services.

Currently, Tenants Queensland is grossly underfunded and lacks the resources to represent us appropriately. With only a handful of people, over the last eleven months, they received over 95,000 attempts to contact them, which is a goliath task, and were only able to respond to 2,500 of these calls, whilst running 20 legal casework files.

This underfunding is not acceptable and doesn’t give us renters a reasonable opportunity to enforce the available rights of ourselves and our families. Like all Queenslanders, all we want is a fair go.

I know that renters will unite behind this cause, as it is in their interest to do so. We are no longer the old stereotype, but are hardworking Queenslanders readying ourselves to one day own a home, and our population is only growing. The RTA is entirely funded on the interest from tenant bonds, which was upwards of 47 million dollars last year. Landlords and agents get enormous benefit and a free service from this use of the tenants’ bond interest. When this was first established, it seemed reasonable for tenants to give away their individual right to interest on their bonds, when there was a universal benefit of access to specialist services. Now it just seems grossly unfair.

We deserve and demand a better funded Tenants Queensland. My question to you, as our local contending member, is what support will you offer to Tenants Queensland, and in turn, your electorate whom are renters?

I eagerly await your response and stance on this important issue.

LABOR’S RESPONSE

Hi Robert

Thank you very much for contacting Grace to share your personal experience of
renting and your concern for the Tenancy Queensland. QLD Labor if committed to
ensuring their is affordable housing and regulations that protect renters. In April 2014
Member for Bundamba Jo-Ann Miller introduced a Private Member’s Bill into the
Parliament, calling for new laws that will crack down on so-called ‘slumlords’ –
landlords that don’t provide an appropriate standard of housing for tenants.
Information about this can be found at http://annastacia.com.au/calls-for-new-
crackdown-on-slumlords/
.

You may also be interested in QLD Labor’s Housing Policy that is available on our
website at http://www.queenslandlabor.org/wp-
content/uploads/2014QldPolicyPlatform_web.pdf.

I have included the relevant sections from this policy below.

We hope that we are elected on Saturday so we can begin to implement these policy.

Best wishes

Vicky @ Team Grace

HOUSING
7.20 Access to safe, adequate, appropriate and affordable housing is a basic right of
all
people.
7.21 Government assistance is required for those who are unable to obtain adequate
secure and affordable housing in the private market.
7.22 Private and public residential development should be planned, sustainable and
encompass a variety of housing types that cater to the differing needs of people of
different ages, family circumstances and cultural values.
7.23 Home ownership is a legitimate goal of most people. Labor supports that goal,
including for low and middle income earners.
7.24 Local communities, residents and representative groups should be involved
wherever
possible in decisions relating to the planning, development, management and
operation of public housing.
7.25 Ongoing efforts must be made across government to reduce homelessness by
working with all levels of government and the non-government sector to improve and
expand homelessness services. A particular focus is getting homeless people into
stable employment with an income that enables them to end rather than manage their
homelessness.

LABOR PRIORITIES IN GOVERNMENT
Assistance to Tenants
7.26 Labor will provide legislative protections for tenants in the private rental market
(including right of appeal against listings on tenant databases) and restore outreach
and advocacy services for public housing tenants and private renters.
7.27 Labor will protect tenants in the private rental market from cost shifting by
lessors/
agents and acknowledges that the cost associated with the collection of rents is the
responsibility of the lessors/agents.
7.28 Labor will restore tenancy advisory services including the Tenant Advice and
Advocacy
Service.
7.29 Labor will work with all levels of government, the private sector and the
nongovernment
sector to develop and restore rent relief and advisory schemes,
innovative rental housing such as cost-rent associations and common equity housing,
cooperatives, joint public and private schemes, joint ventures with State and Local
government and lease-back arrangements.

Housing Assistance for Special Needs
7.30 Labor recognises that some groups in the community have special housing
needs
including the elderly, caravan/mobile home park residents, women, young people,
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, families, people from multicultural
backgrounds and people with a disability. Labor will tailor housing programs and
develop accommodation types that recognise and cater to these specialised needs.
Commonwealth–State Housing and Funding
7.31 Labor will support the National Affordable Housing Agreement as the mechanism
for
ensuring that adequate Commonwealth and State funds are guaranteed for secure
and affordable housing programs.
7.32 Labor will also support the National Housing Strategy.
7.33 Labor will ensure that State housing authorities are provided with sufficient
funding to
achieve the policy objectives in this section.
Home Finance and Home Ownership Assistance
7.34 Labor will work with the Federal Government and the private sector to broaden
the
source and types of finance available for housing.
7.35 Labor will encourage financial institutions to provide finance to innovate housing
schemes, encouraging the introduction of more flexible mortgage schemes such as
capital-indexed and other low start loans.
7.36 Labor will develop assistance to help home buyers to bridge the deposit gap. It
will
assist with interest payments and ensure that any state schemes in this area are
closely
coordinated with any Commonwealth Government schemes.
7.37 Labor will support moves to target first home owners with assistance, tax relief
mechanisms and similar grants towards low income households.
Housing Cost
Regulation and Development of Affordable Housing
7.38 Labor will monitor the adequacy of stocks of serviced land throughout
Queensland to
avoid price escalation caused by shortages.
7.39 Labor will regularly review building codes and regulations, housing and
development
standards and private regulation through developers’ covenants with a view to
removing obsolete and inconsistent requirements that impose unnecessary costs
without significantly enhancing amenities.
7.40 Labor will assist in the development of innovative housing projects using
alternative
planning and engineering methods while maintaining standards.
7.41 Labor will amend legislation to provide affordable housing in areas of housing
need
where planning changes and urban renewal permit redevelopment.

7.42 Labor will actively encourage industry and public superannuation funds to
facilitate
the provision of affordable housing on previously unreleased state government land
through prudential investment of funds, and the extent of this investment is to be
reported annually to members.
Public Housing
7.43 Labor will increase public housing stock to continue to reduce waiting lists to a
reasonable level.
7.44 Labor will ensure that state Housing Authorities are provided with sufficient
funding
to allow public housing accommodation to be expanded to at least 10% of the total
housing stock in each region by 2020.
7.45 To assist with meeting the above goal, upon the sale of State Government land
designated for housing development, a minimum of 10% of the land or land value
equivalent will be set aside for social housing (both public and community).
7.46 Labor will ensure public housing rental rebate policies do not require tenants to
pay
more than 25% of household income in rent, unless there is an agreement with the
housing authority to charge a higher rate for the provision of additional services.
7.47 Labor will increase the public housing stock through a combination of public
tender and direct construction, acquisition through spot purchase, restoration and
rehabilitation of existing structurally sound dwellings, and promoting small scale
redevelopment projects in existing residential areas.
7.48 Labor will review all State Government land holdings with a view to releasing
land for
affordable housing development in accordance with the principles and policies in this
section

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