Housing is governed by an adversarial court system. It favours those with the power and the resources to use it.
Renters, those living in retirement housing and caravan parks, and even home owners, are often too afraid or don't have the means to go through the courts, and as a result are getting a raw deal. The Greens will create a Housing Ombudsman to resolve disputes in a free, fast and fair manner.
In recent years, inquiries and reviews into the housing sector have found significant failures in the provision of binding dispute resolution services, leading to renters, retirees and home owners getting ripped off.
The Victorian Parliament’s Inquiry into the Retirement Housing Sector found that some retirees are being fleeced by their retirement housing operator through unfair charges and returns on their property, but people are too afraid to speak up, let alone take the matter to court, for fear of bullying or losing even more financially.
A recent review by Consumer Affairs found a system that hugely favors landlords over tenants, with tenants bringing just seven per cent of the 60,000 cases to the Victorian and Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) relating to rental properties.
People building their own home or purchasing a relatively new property are finding that soon after the building warranty expires, shoddy workmanship is showing up and they face massive costs for repairs that would never have been required without the builder cutting corners.
All these issues need a free, fast and fair dispute resolution service that makes binding decisions in accordance with the law. A service that avoids people having to go to court and endure a costly, stressful and lengthy legal process. We have an Energy and Water Ombudsman and a Public Transport Ombudsman. Evidence shows we also need a Housing Ombudsman.
To ensure people have access to a free, fast and fair dispute resolution service for housing, the Greens will create a Housing Ombudsman to resolve disputes between:
- landlords/agents and renters
- home owners and builders
- retirement housing, caravan park and rooming house operators and residents
- home owners in strata owner corporation buildings and
- in disputes related to short stay accommodation.
The Ombudsman will be set up at arm’s length from industry and the government, will operate by a clear charter and constitution ensuring it is independent, follows best practice in complaints handling, and is accessible, accountable, timely and effective. It will facilitate binding agreements, and provide binding decisions and orders in an informal and non-adversarial setting.