Mr HUMPHERSON (Davidson) [5.33 p.m.]: I draw the attention of the House to a matter that relates directly to a constituent in my electorate. An elderly, self-funded retiree has an investment property on which she relies for her income. She has had a very unfortunate experience in dealing with a tenant and, consequently, the Residential Tenancies Tribunal, which warrants the attention of this House. I would like the Government to review the role of the tribunal and the processes it has to follow. My constituent had a tenant by the name of James Samson in her property at North Narrabeen whom, it must be said from what various people who know him have said, is of questionable character. He was a tenant in my constituent's property from September 1999 and sometime late last year he stopped paying his rent. It would appear that from time to time he has been in receipt of Centrelink payments, as well as working as a brickie's labourer. It also transpires that references he initially provided may have been bogus.
My elderly retired constituent, who relies on her rental property for income, has been very traumatised by her experiences with this tenant and the Residential Tenancies Tribunal. Unfortunately, her story is typical of many, particularly those who offer residential properties for rent throughout Sydney. It would be of concern also to small investors. My constituent is facing her seventh hearing before the tribunal, which has placed a significant strain on her health and her income. In January and February this year she had the first of two hearings at the tribunal. The upshot of the second hearing was that the tenant, Mr Samson, was told to vacate the premises and make good the payments on which he had defaulted. A third hearing followed in which the tenant took the landlord to the tribunal, made allegations about engineering deficiencies in the house and claimed compensation.
The tenant pontificated for 2½ years, at which point the hearing was adjourned to a fourth hearing date. At that time the assessor, unfortunately, was ill and the hearing was unable to progress. At the fifth hearing the tenant claimed that he forgot the day. Fortunately, the assessor, in view of the facts and in the absence of the tenant, made a judgment against him. The assessor gave the tenant one week's notice to vacate the premises and ordered him to pay any outstanding money. The tenant appealed that decision and was awarded a sixth hearing, which he again forgot. Judgment was again awarded against the tenant, who was ordered to vacate the next day and make payment of the rental arrears. The tenant vacated the premises the next day, but at today's date my constituent is yet to receive $1 in payment. Not only is she out of pocket by $5,000 in forgone rent; she is unable to find another tenant to move into the premises. My constituent has lost $1,050, or thereabouts, in payments to the agent and by having to appear at the tribunal. She has also had to finance an engineering report for the bogus claim of engineering deficiencies.
My constituent has now received a notice from the tribunal of a seventh hearing. The tenant appealed on health grounds and the tribunal saw fit to grant him leave for a seventh hearing. Not only is the tenant refusing to make payment; he is also dragging my elderly tenant through a very difficult and unnecessary process. The Residential Tenancies Tribunal must be much firmer with tenants of this nature. There is no doubt that such a tenant should be blacklisted and not given the opportunity to rent a property anywhere. The tribunal should never have granted a seventh hearing and, arguably, not even a fifth and sixth hearing. The tribunal should have thrown this matter out before it went to a hearing. There seems to be a significant shift of attitude by the tribunal towards people who provide rental properties to those in the private rental market, which is critical to our housing market. It should disallow tenants, such as Mr Samson, flexibility and latitude of this nature that they do not deserve.