Shelter WA recommendations taken up by Automatic Rent Deduction Inquiry

The Inquiry into the ‘Social Services Legislation Amendment (Housing Affordability) Bill 2017’, related to Automatic Rent Deductions for social housing tenants, was tabled on 6 December 2017.

While the Senate Standing Committee has recommended the passing of the Bill, with dissenting reports from Labor and the Greens, and against the support of Shelter WA, we are pleased that some key recommendations from our submission have been included as recommendations.

The Committee’s recommendations to government include that they:

  1. consider whether there is merit in imposing a cap on the maximum percentage of a tenant's divertible welfare payment which can be deducted under the Automatic Rent Deduction Scheme, to ensure that an amount is available to meet a tenant's other basic and reasonable needs.
  2. clarify how the scheme will interact with other forms of income management, such as cashless welfare arrangements, or other deductions made from a tenant's income support payment under Commonwealth law.
  3. consider the arguments for including a provision in the Automatic Rent Deduction Scheme guidelines for notification to be provided to a tenant when: a request for an automatic deduction is made by a lessor, the stated reason(s) for a request; the outcome of the Secretary's consideration of a request; and, if the Secretary approves a request, the amount that will be deducted, the deduction schedule and information regarding government funded financial counselling and other relevant support services available to a tenant.
  4. consider whether there is merit in providing a review mechanism in the Automatic Rent Deduction Scheme to provide a tenant with an accessible process for requesting a review of a decision made by the Secretary.

These recommendations were put forward by Shelter WA to ensure among other reasons, that every person is provided autonomy and liberty, core elements of our democracy. Social housing providers have voluntary rent deduction schemes in place. These empower tenants to manage their budgets to maintain and sustain their tenancies. Shelter WA was quoted in the Senate Standing Committees report on pages 11 and 16.

“Shelter WA expressed a similar concern regarding the proposed definition and suggested that the provision may disadvantage Indigenous women,"

"Many Aboriginal women who are social housing tenants and named on leases but who have within their house-holds other family members who contribute to a household rent. Shelter WA is concerned that because they are named on a lease, it will be they who have the rent deducted from their payments and are then in a position where they have to get rent off their other adult family members who are not named on the lease. Once the rent is already paid they may struggle to be paid by other family members.” 

“National Shelter, NATO and Shelter WA recommended that a cap be placed at a percentage of the total value of income support payments received by tenants.”

The Senate Standing Committee’s full report is available here.

Shelter WA’s submission to the Bill is available here. Shelter WA will continue to monitor the progression of the Bill and advocacy

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