Advocating for tenants Recovery could be a little easier
Concerns over rent post-Debbie
IN THE aftermath of Cyclone Debbie, Whitsunday residents are more likely to be paying higher rent than they believe is fair because they don’t want to “make a name for themselves” and fear losing out on future housing options, says Whitsunday Neighbourhood Centre executive officer Rebecca Woods.
There has been a deluge of complaints about rent rates and tenancy agreements since the cyclone.
Tenants Queensland confirmed last week it would push for rent-capping in a State Government tenancy law reform review.
Ms Woods said people did not want to be seen as a trouble-makers “because they feel that in a small town with a small number of property managers they would make it difficult for themselves to find another premises”.
She said after the cyclone there had been a definite lack of properties available because the area had become busy with tradespeople taking out short-term leases on accommodation.
Many properties were also damaged, and owners had moved into rental properties.
“Our supply was pretty much taken up and then the extra demand was there,” Ms Woods said.
“What has happened is the landlords and property managers have said they will renew a person’s lease, but at an additional ‘x’ amount of dollars.”
Ms Woods said tenants were then left with the decision to either accept the increase, dispute it or vacate the premises.
“And a lot of people are not disputing, they’re going ahead and paying it because they have no other option,” she said.
“They can’t vacate or they will be homeless.”
Ms Woods said the Neighbourhood Centre was focussed on helping people feel empowered and making sure they knew their rights.
She said it also provided training and support for property managers and landlords.
Ms Woods said when demand reduced again as tradespeople moved out of town and people moved back into their homes, rental rates would return to normal.
However, the problem could return if there was another natural disaster and if laws were not introduced to temporarily freeze rental rates in emergency or unnatural situations.
Tenants Queensland chief executive officer Penny Carr said last month the State Government released a 10-year State Housing Strategy and she was awaiting dates for the consultation period.
Ms Carr said she would push for temporary rentcapping and “just case eviction”.
Queensland Statewide Tenant Advice and Referral Service has received more than 50 referrals for cyclonerelated complaints since Cyclone Debbie, said Mackay advocate Nikki Hancock.
QSTARS is a free program which provides tenants with advice to manage and sustain their tenancy.
It is managed statewide by Tenants Queensland and delivered in the Whitsunday region by Mackay Regional Community Legal Centre. LOCAL Whitsunday organisations have just over a month to take advantage of a worthy opportunity.
Westpac has set up a $100,000 Disaster Recovery Grant program to give a hand up to community groups experiencing hardship post Cyclone Debbie with individual grants up to $10,000 available.
WestBank Cannonvale branch manager Jane Tissington put the call out for Whitsunday organisations to jump on board before the September 15 deadline.
“You don’t have to be a Westpac customer to jump on and apply,” she said.
“Everyone should get on board and try their luck.”
Priority is given to groups that promote social, economic and community recovery.
Projects that repair and re-build community infrastructure, promote “regeneration of people and places” and assist with regional economic development will be looked upon favourably.
Organisations have until 5pm, September 15, to apply and recipients will be announced in October.
For more detail on grant eligibility call or visit the local Westpac branch.
FIELDING COMPLAINTS: Raelene Martin of Tenants Queensland with Whitsunday Neighbourhood Centre executive officer Rebecca Woods.