Tenancy groups are concerned over the proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Amendment (RTA) Bill, saying they should encourage good practice rather than trying to bring fines and charges against tenants.
Helen Gatoyni of the Tenants Protection Association (TPA), believes the changes look like good ideas on the surface, but is concerned there are issues still to be sorted.
"I need to say clearly that we know people have been dissatisfied with decisions that have been made at the Tenancy Tribunal...But someone has to take duty of care in terms of housing people. That's a social issue far broader than the RTA. I feel that for a few bad eggs, you don't have to change a whole system."
Gatoyni is concerned about some of the amendments which carry unlawful acts and exemptions. "I don't believe it encourages landlords to behave better by increasing fines that probably won't be paid anyway."
She is not happy with the section which prohibits subletting by tenants. "I think landlords should also be held responsible in some way if they unilaterally withhold consent."
Clause 35, she says, also needs tightening up. It requires the tribunal to terminate the tenancy if the tenant causes or permits any person to assault or threaten to assault the landlord or their family.
"How do you actually prove the tenant permits a person to assault or threaten? There has to be a higher level of proof," she says.
Gatoyni also objects to the omission of trained advocates for tenants in the Tenancy Tribunal and says it's even more important now that their liability has been extended to $50,000.
Gatoyni is currently in the process of writing to inform as many stakeholders as possible of her concerns. "We like to consult with the wider community before we make our own statements."
However, she says the TPA will continue to look at the bill in a very practical way. "For me, it's always about encouraging good practice."