South Perth MLA John McGrath has called on the State Government to make changes to the Residential Tenancies Act to make it easier for Homeswest to terminate problem tenancies.
In a speech to the Legislation Assembly today Mr McGrath said his office continued to be inundated with complaints of anti-social behaviour by a minority of Homeswest tenants.
“As recently as 4 o’clock this morning a family in South Perth was traumatized by a fight between a male and a female that required the attendance of three police cars and an ambulance,” he said.
Mr McGrath said some residents across several parts of the electorate felt like victims in their own homes because of the conduct of bad neighbours.
“I would be letting those people down if I had not raised this in Parliament today,” he said. “In some cases these people’s lives have become sheer hell. Indeed, some residents have been forced to move.”
Mr McGrath, who told Parliament that he grew up in a State Housing home, stressed that most Homewest tenants were good tenants and responsible members of the community. “It is unfortunate that a small number of people are being such bad neighbours,” he said.
Mr McGrath said Homeswest should be removed from the Residential Tenancies Act and a transparent structure established under which the department alone could deal with the termination of tenancies. “I am told that provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act make it very difficult for the department to evict tenants, even very bad tenants,” he said.
“Earlier this year the Department of Housing introduced a disruptive behaviour management strategy but I am yet to be convinced that it is working. It’s supposed to be a three-strikes-and-you’re-out system over a six months period but even then the department has to go through the Magistrate’s Court.”
Mr McGrath said with more than 25,000 people on the waiting list for Homeswest accommodation it was unfortunate that some people who had been allocated government-assisted housing did not treat the privilege with proper respect.”
He called for a public inquiry into public housing with a view to better implementation of the program.
“Some people appear to be going into unsuitable accommodation,” he said. “Maybe the Government needs to put in place better support programs.”
Housing Minister Bill Marmion told Parliament he was receiving a growing number of complaints from MPs about disruptive behaviour by Homeswest tenants.
“Indeed the majority of Homeswest tenants are good tenants,” he said. “We have to determine what we do about those isolated cases.”
Mr Marmion said the process for terminating a tenancy was contained in the Residential Tenancies Act.
“Both the Department of Housing and individual landlords are constrained by that act,” he said. “The purpose of the Residential Tenancies Act is to give rights to both landlords and tenants. There is a balance but perhaps the balance is not right.
“The Government will be introducing a bill to amend the act in spring this year. The aim will be to maintain the balance while also giving the department and other landlords better ability to terminate the tenancy of a disruptive tenant.”