New bureaucratic burden for welfare housing

Evictions from welfare housing -- often due to extensive rental arrears -- normally require an extensive, costly and time-consuming bureaucratic process. Which costs the taxpayer a lot of money. So the W.A. government has been using a loophole that sidesteps that process. Do-gooders are trying to close that loophole. In the case below, it is almost certain that the Aborigine man was way behind with his rent

The West Australian government is being urged to stop evictions of public housing tenants without reason, or risk a deluge of litigation following an injunction being granted in the Federal Court.

After receiving a without grounds eviction notice in August, Noongar man John Abraham lodged a racial discrimination complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

In September, the Federal Court granted an injunction to his eviction until his AHRC complaint is heard.

The Tenancy Network, a group of community law firms, on Thursday urged Housing Minister John Carey to issue an immediate moratorium on the use of “without grounds” terminations of public housing tenancies.

It was signed by tenancy-focused lawyers from Circle Green Community Legal, Daydawn Advocacy Service, and SCALES community legal centre at Murdoch University.

They said since Abraham’s injunction was granted another elderly Aboriginal man was made homeless after he was evicted using the without grounds termination.

“This eviction was despite multiple written requests from the lawyers assisting him to the Housing Authority, to confirm that they would not action the eviction in light of the Federal Court injunction; requests which received no response from the Housing Authority,” it said.

They also warned the state was opening itself up to further litigation if it didn’t apply a statewide halt to its use, “to avoid further risk of eviction to homelessness, and excess litigation in other tenants lodging similar actions” with the AHRC and the Federal Court.

The lawyers said they did not want the Housing Authority, which sits within the Department of Communities, prevented from terminating tenancies where there were express reasons for doing so but urged the state to follow existing processes to evict tenants for breaches.

The department must apply to a magistrate to have a public housing tenancy terminated.

The magistrate must be satisfied there has been a breach of the tenancy agreement, and that the tenant has been given every opportunity to rectify the breach and has failed to do so.

However, Circle Green principal lawyer Alice Pennycott said magistrates considering without grounds terminations only needed to consider whether the request was issued correctly.

She said if the department had compelling reasons to terminate an agreement then it should follow existing processes.

A spokesman for Carey said the government would respond formally to Circle Green Community Legal “in due course”.


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