Debates and Questions - Day 1 - 24 April 2020
Parliamentary Record 27
Debates and Questions for 13th Assembly 2019 - 2020; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Debates and Questions
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES AND QUESTIONS Friday 24 April 2020 8310 Equivalents to this bill are being enacted or have already been enacted around Australia. It is intended that the notice will be used to create processes that promote fairness and alleviate hardship on a case-by-case basis. Together with the changes that, as the minister, I may make by a notice, the amendments will establish a framework that encourages cooperative negotiation. Given the current emergency, it is appropriate to expect landlords and tenants to make reasonable and good-faith attempts to find workable interim arrangements to help each other get through this period. We recognise that many tenants and landlords are already doing the right thingas I mentioned with the case I heard about yesterdayto meet their obligations where possible and reach out to lend a helping if they can. Unfortunately, there will always be some people who do not do the right thing or even seek to take advantage of the situation. The government's objective is to protect Territorians from opportunistic behaviour, while ensuring that those who really need help are afforded that opportunity. These new measures will allow the minister to create a procedural framework that will not allow the negotiation process to be bypassed for existing or new leases. The notice in relation to existing residential tenancies will work to extend processing time frames to ensure good faith negotiations. A landlord or a tenant cannot stall and let that time period expire by significantly increasing it. It is important to have the demonstration of legitimate hardship due to COVID-19. Hardship will be defined as a reduction in income to a level where: the proportion of rent payable by the person exceeds 30% of household income the reduction in income was the direct or indirect result of the public health directions or emergency directions in relation to COVID-19. The documentation to demonstrate hardship could be a letter from an employer, or bank statements to show that their income has reduced. The time frames to commence eviction action will be extended to ensure that parties try to come to some sort of agreement. In practical terms, the tenant must be in rental arrears for 60 days. The tenant then has a further 60 days to rectify before the landlord can commence eviction action, ensuring that good-faith negotiations occur during these hard times. We need to make it clear to Territorians that this is not a rental holiday. It is not an opportunity under the cover of Coronavirus to say, I do not want to pay my rent; there has to be proof. We understand that landlords have bills to pay. We cannot have one portion of the community taking advantage of this. The rent will need to be paid at a time agreed by both parties. This is a mechanism to support tenants who may be experiencing hardship. The government does not intend that extended time frames for negotiation will apply to evictions for illegal or nuisance behaviour by a tenant or to urgent requests by tenants due to premises becoming unsafe. These amendments are to support people who are experiencing genuine hardship due to COVID-19. In our communities we have all spoken to people and heard the stories. There is genuine hardship across the community. For new residential tenancies created during this emergency period, the minister will be able to create a mechanism whereby the NTCAT can vary the terms of the tenancies to the extent necessary to deal with hardship and to do this in preference to an eviction, where appropriate. By acknowledging that it is ordinarily the responsibility of this Assembly to make such changes to the law, the amendments contain a requirement to table any notices on the next sitting day after they have been made and a clause that enables the Assembly to disallow any provisions of the notice it deems inappropriate. This measure will ensure the powers given to me as the responsible minister by this bill remain properly scrutinised and controlled. Importantly, the amendments constrain the ability to amend the Tenancies Act by notice for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency and the recovery phase. The amendments also contain severe penalties for those seeking to unfairly take advantage of the situation for their own personal gain at the expense of the other party to the lease.
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