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Debates and Questions - Day 1 - 24 April 2020



Debates and Questions - Day 1 - 24 April 2020

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Parliamentary Record 27


Debates and Questions for 13th Assembly 2019 - 2020; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020




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Debates and Questions

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES AND QUESTIONS Friday 24 April 2020 8320 That is a fairly broad statement. If the only control over what the minister does is for a modification notice to come back to parliament at the next sitting days, there is a period where it seems the minister could suspend or modify all or part of the act and regulations made under it without any scrutiny from anybody. That may not be a bad thing, because I am not sure what the minister will modify, but that is a pretty broad power, regardless of the fact we are in an emergency period. I would like to see something more specific in relation to what the modification notice can be. There are other areas within the bill where it talks about what the changes can be, but that section is so broad. It goes on to say: (b) make provisions to regulate the following: (i) business premises or a business lease to which this Act applies; (ii) an arrangement (an occupation arrangement) for the occupation of premises for business purposes that is an arrangement to which this Act, but for this section, does not apply. I said before that we needed a lot more time and discussion with people to get a better understanding of this bill. After listening to the debate this morning, I want to find out how the government is allowed to override a contract between a landlord and a renter. That is a private agreement or contract signed. We are basically saying that the government has the power to interfere with that contract. I know it does not have the power to change the acquisition side of thingsalthough there is a clause in here about acquisitionsbut they are allowed to extend the time for negotiation for when the rent can be paid, et cetera. When I look at section 157C(9), it says: The Minister may, by a modification notice, make the alleviation of hardship the principal consideration in a tenancy dispute, including by changing provisions of this Act affecting: (a) a landlord's right to: (i) obtain fair rent; or (ii) terminate a tenancy; and (b) any other right of a party, or obligation on a party, arising as a result of a tenancy or occupation arrangement. If a landlord found that they do not have the right to obtain a fair rent, could they sue the government? They have obviously written up a private contract which says, Between my tenant and me I can receive this much money. From what I read, the minister can, by modification notice, change provisions affecting the obtained fair rent. If that is allowed, does it bring into play the issue of fair compensation? Does that fit if that is the case? I am interested to know how that works. Another thing I mentioned yesterday in the briefing was about misrepresenting a financial situation. That is important, and there are severe penalties for anyone who does it. You want to make sure that people are not trying to pull the wool over someones eyes when it comes to claiming financial hardship and wanting a longer period to stay in a tenancy. The other thing is making sure that issues where people who were in rent arrears before this legislation have nothing to do with what is being put forward today. In other words, they cannot use that as a hardship clause. A landlord came to me about that. He has a tenant who was behind in payments before the Coronavirus issue, and is concerned this would make it more difficult to be paid the rent that was in arrears prior. I cannot see any sunset clause. There is probably something written in here. Perhaps it fits in the ministers powers that while we have the COVID-19 public health emergency declared by notice. I presume we do not have an end date to that, or is it 90 days and can be extended? You may need a clause which says that these amendments ceasethat is why I am worried about having things in here which are not necessarily related to COVID-19when the public health emergency is declared ended.