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Public housing tenants at risk of being "evicted into homelessness"

Homeless Cardboard

It was called a David and Goliath battle in mid-November, when the Tenants Union represented housing tenant Gregory Parsons, who lives with a disability, after Housing Tasmania handed him notice to vacate his home of ten years.

The fight was taken all the way to the Supreme Court, who handed down a final decision that Mr Parsons would be allowed to remain in his property. 

But the win was even bigger, as it set a precedent for all tenants of Housing Tasmania to be provided with reasons, and a right of review before being evicted. 

However, Housing Tasmania has now appealed the decision to evict Mr Parsons from his unit, a possible threat to not only Mr Parsons, but all low-income tenants in the capital city is the least affordable in Australia, according to the latest Rental Affordability Index.

Ben Bartle, solicitor with the Tenants Union of Tasmania says the decision will have resounding repercussions. 

"The importance of the decision is that any public housing tenant who's going to be evicted should always be given an opportunity to fix the problem, so be it loud noise, the property not in a clean condition, or in rental arrears, the tenant should always be told 'you have the opportunity to remedy the problem,' he explained. 

"The difficult that we, at the Tenants Union, have faced is that over the years, rather than giving tenants the opportunity to fix the problem, Housing Tasmania have decided they will just tell tenants that their lease is ending, which means that they cannot challenge the reason because there is nothing to challenge, and so they're evicted into homelessness."

The Supreme Court found that Housing Tasmania did need to find reasons to evict their tenants because of the significant risk of homelessness that would result. 

But, Housing Tasmania appeal says they do not need to provide reasons and that they shouldn't be treated differently to any other landlord. 

Mr Bartle is very concerned about the most recent development given Tasmania's housing crisis and lack of affordable rentals. 

"It's really pouring salt into the wounds of public housing tenants to know that Housing Tasmania is using their limited resources to find ways to evict tenants more easily, rather than using those limited resources to build more accommodation for tenants," he said. 

"What this means in effect is that many tenants will be too worried to stand up for their rights because at the end of their lease they may be evicted into homelessness."

Mr Bartle says that in Mr Parsons case, if the Supreme Court decision is overturned he will become homeless because he cannot afford to rent in the private housing market.

"The notice to vacate served on Mr Parsons was completely out of the blue, Mr Parsons did ask for reasons and did ask for an opportunity to remedy any problems that may have arisen. He wasn't given that opportunity," he said. 

"We do not believe that Housing Tasmania should be fighting it, we believe that Housing Tasmania should be using their limited resources to keep roofs over tenants heads, and not finding ways to evict tenants."