A CHILD climbing a neighbour’s tree has scored a family one strike in a three-strikes-and-you’re-evicted clause in their WA housing department home.
Anna Copeland from Murdoch University’s law school cites it as one example of how last year’s change to the Residential Tenancy Act is being used in a way the Barnett minority Liberal government may not have intended when cracking down on disruptive public housing tenants.
Now, the school and the Southern Communities Advocacy Legal and Education Service are joining forces to represent tenants who they fear are being hard-done by.
Ms Copeland says since the three-strikes policy’s introduction, people have been made homeless without getting a fair hearing.
“We heard the story about a child that climbed a nearby neighbour’s tree and that was considered a strike,” she told the Herald.
“We are not saying the department of housing doesn’t ever have the right to evict, but we want the people to have a fair hearing and know all the details levelled against them.
“We want to ensure the government’s disruptive behaviour management policy for social housing operates in a fair and legal manner. At the moment this is not the case.”
She says another concern is how the department and the courts interpret “vicarious responsibility” under the Act.
“If there is a burglary in the house, the tenant gets a strike,” she says.
“A person is lawfully on the tenant’s premise if they are invited, but if a guest begins to behave in ways that are not acceptable, such as assaulting the tenant, they cease to be lawfully on the property.
“Yet the idea of vicarious responsibility is being used for anything that happens on the property—and that’s not valid in law.”