ACT News

Government loses bid to evict caravan park resident due to lack of available public housing

The ACT government has lost an appeal to evict a long-term resident of caravan park after a court cited a lack of available low income housing alternatives.

The occupant, a "mature aged" former shop assistant has lived in her caravan in a long-stay park since 1987, but became unable to pay her rent in recent years.   

According to documents tendered in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the occupant repeatedly defaulted on her rental payments due to a combination of insecure employment, mental health issues, gambling, and an inability to access Centrelink payments.

After allegedly amassing $3000 in overdue rent, the ACT Commissioner for Social Housing in the ACT commenced proceedings in February 2014 to terminate her occupancy agreement.

But the occupant, who lives alone and pays $100 in rent a week, opposed the application as "she had nowhere to go and no money for alternative accommodation".

In a judgment published online, ACAT senior member Allan Anforth dismissed the commissioner's case and deemed it irrelevant whether the caravan park was formally part of a public housing program, as it clearly catered for low-income earners.

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"It is matter of common general knowledge, that there is a dearth of low income housing in the ACT," read the judgment.

According to the judgement, the occupant entered an agreement with the commissioner between 2004 and 2009.

"The terms of the occupancy agreements in place for park residents are very similar to residential tenancies agreements under the public rental housing assistance program," Mr Anforth said.

"They provide long term accommodation for people who may be in residence for decades, during which time they develop their own communities."

The court heard the occupant was previously employed on a casual basis with an expected 20 hours of work a week, which excluded her from Centrelink payments despite often being without work for weeks.

Documents show the occupant now relies on Centrelink to survive and has no family to call on for financial support, despite having an unemployed daughter who requests assistance with food and other expenses.

The tribunal acknowledged the "patience and non-adversarial spirit in which the commissioner's representatives conducted themselves in this lengthy and sometimes trying matter".

The occupant was ordered to pay $60 per week towards arrears and to arrange a direct deduction with Centrelink for the whole of the overdue.

The commissioner may relist for termination should the occupant cancel the direct deductions.