The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:25): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Consumer Affairs a question about residential tenancies.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On 29 June 2009 the minister announced that a service, described as budget neutral, with a $35 application fee for lodgement of matters before the Residential Tenancies Tribunal, would avoid or prompt swifter resolution of disputes with landlords or agents that were heading for the Residential Tenancies Tribunal. My questions to the minister are:
1. How many times has the fee been levied since its introduction?
2. How many Residential Tenancies Tribunal hearings were held in 2009 and 2010?
3. How many tenancy disputes did OCBA's tenancies branch assist with both in 2009 and thus far in 2010?
4. What is the measure to determine whether disputes are being resolved more quickly as a result of the introduction of this measure?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister for the City of Adelaide) (14:26): I thank the honourable member for her questions. The decision to introduce a $35 fee for applications to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal was aimed at reducing the number of disputes which could perhaps unnecessarily end up before that tribunal. The fee was introduced as of 1 January 2010, but was deferred for six months until 1 July 2010 because it was apparent that there were a number of complexities around that administration, particularly in relation to IT requirements.
As I have said before in this place, I am sure that the revenue from the fee will go towards education initiatives, providing financial counselling, in particular, and advocacy support to try to avert cases that are potentially quite straightforward from ending up before the tribunal. The revenue was also used to fund an ASO2 position for an officer to process the fee and also handle other administrative matters associated with that fee. The fee introduced by OCBA is very conservative in terms of its amount, compared with some other jurisdictions; for example, Victoria's Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal charges between $37 and $615, while the ACT's Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal charges between $59 and $229.
I am sure I have said in this place before that the act provides that the registrar may remit or reduce the fee if the applicant is concerned that such a fee might result in financial hardship, or for any other reason. As well as this, the government put in place an exemption for people with concession cards; people such as full-time students are also exempt from this application fee, as are government agencies.
As I said, this has been put in place to help streamline matters. In particular, the financial counselling service that has been put in place has been designed to help those tenants who have trouble paying their rent. Therefore, really, the expenditure is a real win-win for both the landlords and tenants, because landlords are obviously going to benefit by having tenants who have a well budgeted household and are able to manage their budgets more efficiently and effectively and therefore potentially become more reliable tenants.
So, the aim of that fee was to really broaden it into initiatives that would benefit the industry generally, both in terms of landlords and tenants. The scheme has only been in for a matter of months. As yet, to the best of my knowledge, I have not received any details of the pickup rate and utilisation rate thus far, although obviously I will be expecting something soon. In terms of the detailed information that the Hon. Michelle Lensink has requested, I don't have that information available. I don't even know if it is available as yet, but I will certainly do my best to take that on notice and to bring back answers to those questions.
Tuesday 8 February 2011
In reply to the Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (28 October 2010).
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Public Sector Management, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises): I am advised that:
1. Collection of fees began on the 1 July 2010. As at 1 November 2010 the fee has been levied 1,742 times.
2. In 2009, there were 9,370 hearings. To 31 October, in 2010, there have been 7,108.
3. In 2009, OCBA Tenancies Branch assisted with approximately 3,600 tenancies and tribunal file matters and in 2010, as at 31 October approximately 2,400 tenancies and tribunal file matters.
4. The fee was introduced to reduce the number of disputes unnecessarily reaching the Tribunal. Therefore, the time taken to resolve disputes is not a measure of the effectiveness of the fee.