Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hundreds to lose homes if Govt repeals 1948 Act

The NSW State Government proposes to repeal the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act 1948 – known around here as the 1948 Act.

If it does, upwards of 600 persons – mostly aged pensioners – will lose their homes of many years.

(Rod Spearer, 1948 Act tenant, in his Newtown bedsit.)

The 1948 Act controls rent increases and evictions for so-called 'protected tenancies'. No new protected tenancies have been created for more than 25 years (and no more can be created). Between 600-1400 protected tenancies – all more than 25 years old, some much older – remain in existence, according to the estimate of the Older Persons Tenants Service.

Generally speaking, properties covered by the 1948 Act become 'decontrolled' only when the tenant moves out or dies. As a result, controlled properties trade at a discount. Repeal the 1948 Act, and the owners stand to gain a windfall.

Repeal the Act, and all of those tenancies will be terminated, and hundreds of elderly tenants, of limited means, will face homelessness. 

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A disturbing prospect. So is the process by which the proposed repeal is made.

The proposal is part of a review by NSW Fair Trading of 'red tape'. It's one of a miscellany of issues, including regulations on upfront gym fees and the Warehousemen's Liens Act 1935. In its discussion paper, NSW Fair Trading states of the 1948 Act:


It is unknown whether any protected tenancies still exist in NSW.

This is wrong – and Fair Trading should know it. We wrote to them about OPTS's 600-1400 estimate last October. OPTS dealt with 28 known protected tenancies in its casework in the year to June 2012. Your correspondent spoke to a tenant under the 1948 Act on the phone the other day. The Herald has too. Fair Trading's wrong statement misinforms and potentially misleads the public discussion of the proposed change.

And the 1948 Act isn't 'red tape'. Everyone affected by it – tenants and landlords – made their arrangements long ago. These arrangements shouldn't be changed by repeal of the Act now, when tenants are in their old age.

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