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Question: Rental Moratorium

26 August 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:38): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Human Services on the topic of the rental moratorium on evictions for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: In May, the parliament provided renters experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 with a reprieve when it extended the moratorium on evictions until 1 September. We know that the pandemic and associated economic crisis has coincided with a rental affordability crisis in our state with more and more South Australians struggling to find affordable housing. My question to the minister is: what arrangements have been put in place to ensure that no South Australians will be evicted into homelessness come 1 September?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:39): I thank the honourable member for his question which sits within the Residential Tenancies Act, an act committed to the Attorney-General, but I will attempt to answer it as best I can, knowing as I do that there are some Housing Authority tenants who appear before SACAT. I should say that my understanding of the way that SACAT operates is that they always take individual circumstances into account, and they have a policy that they do not evict into homelessness. So that is a check and balance, if you like, from that point of view.

The advice that I have from the Attorney in relation to the residential tenancies provisions in the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 is that there has been a significant reduction in reliance on those provisions. For the first six months they were relied on daily; however, towards the end of last year, there has been a gradual decline in them being relevant. It is now anticipated that these provisions may be relied on once to twice per week.

It should also be noted that SACAT already has power to suspend evictions for up to 90 days, which is more than sufficient to deal with those matters. It is only in very rare, extreme cases that SACAT would consider suspending eviction for longer than 90 days under the provisions of the COVID act. I will seek further details from the Attorney in relation to this and bring that back to the chamber, if there is more detail that we can provide.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:40): Supplementary: noting the minister's response, will the minister be advocating to the Attorney-General that the protections that are in place for renters who are experiencing financial hardship be extended?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:40): We take advice from organisations such as community and business services and, indeed, from SACAT. If their advice is that there is no need to continue to extend it further then we would take that advice on board. I think in my original answer I indicated that there is little use of these provisions, and they do need to be lifted at some stage. We would take that on advice from those agencies.