Ad­vo­cat­ing for ten­ants Re­cov­ery could be a lit­tle eas­ier

Con­cerns over rent post-Deb­bie

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS - Louise Shan­non Ja­cob Wil­son ja­cob.wil­son@whit­sun­day­times.com.au

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.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

FIELD­ING COM­PLAINTS: Rae­lene Martin of Ten­ants Queens­land with Whit­sun­day Neigh­bour­hood Cen­tre ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Re­becca Woods.

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