Funding for Tenant Services
In Queensland the bulk of funding for tenant advice and advocacy services does not come from taxpayers but comes from Queensland tenants; through the interest earned on tenant bond money lodged with the Residential Tenancies Authority.
Currently the Residential Tenancies Authority holds almost half a billion dollars in tenant bond money. This generates around 40 million dollars in interest payments each year.
The majority of interest on tenant bonds, around 30 million dollars, funds the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA). The RTA is a government agency based in Brisbane that provides services for landlords, real estate agents and tenants. The RTA role is to be impartial in relation to tenancy matters, which means their information and dispute resolution services cannot provide advice or advocate on behalf of tenants.
About 5 million dollars of bond interest (around 12% of interest income) is used to fund the Tenant Advice and Advocacy Service (TAAS) program, which provides 29 community based tenant advice and support services in metropolitan and regional areas across Queensland.
The TAAS program has been managed by the Queensland Department of Housing who have administered this funding to 23 independent community organisations across Queensland. TAAS funded organisations include the Tenants’ Union of Queensland and 22 other community organisations, including community centres, consumer organisations and housing services.
TAAS funded community organisations operate 29 tenant advice offices across regional and metropolitan areas and employ around 65 highly skilled and dedicated tenant advice workers.
The role of tenant advice workers is to provide advice, support and advocacy services for Queensland tenants. These servics include telephone and face-to-face advice and support, advocacy assistance to speak to the lessor or agent, assistance to write letters and fill in forms, and assistance to prepare for Tribunal hearings if needed. For low income and disadvantaged tenants support from a tenant advocate can mean the difference between being housed and being homeless.
The TAAS program provides value for money and provides an essential service for Queensland tenants.
Tenant advice services provide the only dedicated advocacy and support services for Queensland tenants. No other community or government agency provides a similar support service for tenants. In fact many government and community agencies rely on tenant advice services to assist their clients and customers. This is also true for the rental industry; professional real estate agencies are required to represent the interests of lessors (landlords). If there is a dispute real estate agents cannot advise tenants and many professional real estate agents refer their tenants to tenant advice services for assistance.
One third of Queensland households live in rented accommodation. For the majority of tenants things go smoothly. However if things go wrong tenants need to know they can get help; tenants need access to advice and support services.
TAAS services are mainly funded from the income earned on tenant bond money. This is tenant money and should go towards funding services for tenants.
TAAS services assist around 100,000 callers or 80,000 households each year. The government decision to cut funding to the TAAS program is wrong, it will leave thousands of tenants out in the cold without access to advice and support. Cuts to the TAAS program will lead to increased tenant stress, preventable homelessness and increased demand on government and community housing and support services.
If you are concerned about this issue tell the Premier Campbell Newman, the Housing Minister, Dr Bruce Flegg, and your local member. In cutting funding for tenant advice services the government has made the wrong decision and must immediately act to restore funding to tenant advice and advocacy services across Queensland.
See our campaign page for a sample letter and steps you can take to protest cuts to the TAAS program.