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 8315 new rent payment, terms and, even foreseeably, new tenants. We are concerned about the type of situation that they could create. What we also do not want to seeand again this comes back to unintended consequencesis property owners with a vacancy in their property recognising that this legislation has gone through, saying, Hang on a second, we do not want to go down this road during this crisis. We will keep our property off the market so that we do not have to deal with this level of uncertainty of what NTCAT can and cannot do. We would hate to seeI am not saying it will happen but it could happeninvestors and property owners deciding to pull their property from the market so as not to trigger this clause about the new rental agreements. It is important that the Attorney-General explains what they are trying to achieve with that. What is the benefit of that clause in addressing vulnerability? I am sure it is well intentioned, but I want to know why that was arrived at and how they will mitigate that unintended consequence. Again, this comes back to certainty. It is moving into the realm of interfering with contractual rights and the rights of parties to make those types of agreements. This bill specifically allows the minister, in this case the Attorney-General, by modification noticewhich is the enabling component of this billto make the alleviation of hardship the principle consideration in a tenancy dispute, including altering a landlords right under the existing act to obtain fair rent or terminate a tenancy. Again, it is about the balancing of rights. We question whether this has hit that mark. There is no doubt that tenants deserve protection, as do landlords, in their differing situations. That is why this is meant to be a facilitation of achieving a good outcome for everyone, recognising the incredibly difficult time we are in. Every situation will be different. It is important that the balance is right and this legislation enables the best possible outcome in every situation. Other states and territories have taken a different, arguably more balanced, approached to this dilemma. That balance is not easy to achieve but is critically important. For example, Western Australia has instituted a moratorium on evictions, but it has also announced a $30m stimulus package that will provide grants of up to $2000 to help residential tenants pay their rent in the event they are suffering hardship. That is to try to achieve that balance. Similarly, Victoriawe know the Gunner Labor government loves to copy its mates in Victoriahas announced a $500m plan to allow eligible tenants to receive up to $2000 in relief payments and land tax reductions. Again, that makes the effort to strike the balance. The ACT has instituted a moratorium of three months on evictions of tenants who have lost 25% or more of their weekly income, or are eligible for JobSeeker or JobKeeper. It has also provided stimulus to landlords in the form of a land tax rebate of $100 per week. Those jurisdictions have been thinking outside the box and are being more dynamic and conscious of how they achieve that balance. They have gone out of their way to create attempts to support tenants and landlords through this targeted stimulus and relief programs. I do not know if that is the governments intention, but it has not been expressed to us in those terms. All we have is this enabling legislation and a trust us, shell be right promise when it comes to the detail in the modification notices. We have not seen the draft modification notice, as I mentioned earlier, so it is impossible to understand what the government is trying to do or will do. They do not want to consult or be open and communicative with Territorians anymore. It is anyones guess; we will not know about it until it is gazetted, done and dusted, because there is no transparency process. This bill makes similar provisions for dealing with commercial leases. As in the case of residential tenancies, the bill provides the minister with the power during the emergency declaration to issue modification notices affecting the rights of parties to a lease agreement. As with residential tenancies, the bill grants the minister the power to make provisions to regulate business premises and leases to which the act applies, and other aspects of business leases to which the act does not apply. There is a huge potential for sweeping powers, including the power of the landlord to take back possession of a property.
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