Stakeholders supported the procedural fairness provisions in the National Law that allowed providers to appeal Registrar decisions—but required a number of gaps to be addressed and more detailed information on how it would work in practice. Specific issues related to
ensuring all formal Registrar decisions were appealable—including decisions not explicitly referred to in the appeals section of the National Law, including
decisions about an organisation’s registration tier.
ensuring providers have adequate time to respond to instructions or notices issued by Registrars—noting that greater detail is needed in the Intervention Guidelines about the specific intervention procedures that need to be followed by Registrars in using any powers. The appeals mechanism under the National Law could lead to inconsistent regulatory decisions unless state/ territory appeal bodies have very clear guidelines on the grounds for appeal and the basis for Registrar decisions
providing further details about how complaints handling will occur under the national system—and whether Registrars will have any role in handling tenant complaints
undertaking further investigation to test the powers of state/ territory appeals bodies (e.g. VCAT) to hear appeals relating to decisions made by a Primary Registrar who resides in another jurisdiction.
Linkages to NRAS Regulations
A number of Approved Participants under the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS) raised questions about requirements for NRSCH registration. Queensland Affordable Housing Consortium (QAHC) (Submission 20) highlighted that a critical question remains as to whether an NRAS Approved Participant, in attempting to fulfil its obligations under Regulation 17 of the NRAS Regulations 2008, will also be governed by the NRSCH.
Regulation 17 provides that the Approved Participant must ensure that each rental dwelling and the management of it complies at all times with the landlord, tenancy, building and health and safety laws of the state or territory and local government area in which the dwelling is located. QAHC asked whether this regulation would be interpreted to mean that Approved Participants will be required to register as community housing providers, or whether they would be required to ensure NRAS housing managers are registered community housing providers.
National Regulatory Code
Overall, stakeholders indicated that the National Regulatory Code appears to be broadly fit for purpose—although a number of specific concerns were raised and refinements proposed. Further, stakeholders highlighted that the appropriateness of the National Regulatory Code will critically depend on the Evidence Guidelines—which have not yet been developed.
Stakeholders broadly supported the proposed principles of regulation that underpin the Code—although some believed that the descriptions of the principles were inadequate and lacked the specificity needed to drive good regulatory practice. A number of stakeholders suggested redrafting the principles or expanding on the principles in the Intervention Guidelines. Key considerations are listed below.
Translating the principles into expectations about practice—for example, proportionality means that Registrars only intervene when necessary and that interventions are appropriate to the risks associated with the non-compliance
Ensuring that Registrars proactively account for their actions—including working across government to ensure a consistent regulatory approach
Emphasising a co-regulatory approach that recognises existing industry control instruments
Emphasising a risk-based approach to regulation.
Tenant outcomes (Outcomes 1, 2 and 3)
Tenant representative bodies supported Outcomes 1, 2 and 3 but highlighted the need to strengthen the National Regulatory Code’s focus on specific tenant outcomes. Specifically, the National Association of Tenant Organisations (NATA) (Submission 3) indicated that they believed the NRSCH “was unnecessarily constrained in that it does not explicitly seek to provide improved outcomes for current and future tenants. As a consequence of this, the National Regulatory Code is inadequate and will not serve to improve outcomes for tenants.” NATA proposed enhancing the Code by the inclusion of a number of additional requirements in Code Outcomes 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Tenant, residents and clients: should include outcomes and targets relating to sustaining tenancies and affordability (e.g. % of tenancy turnover due to forced evictions; % of tenants paying less than 25% of income in rent)
Housing services: should include outcomes and targets relating to tenant access to administrative appeal processes and access to advocacy services (e.g. % of successful appeals; no exception to advocacy assistance when requested)
Housing assets: should include outcomes and targets relating to compliance with a defined minimum dwelling standard and disability access (e.g. no exceptions to compliance with agreed housing standards; % of properties with disability access)
Community: should include outcomes relating to the continuation of tenants’ connection with their neighborhood and locational choice.
NATA highlighted that these additional outcomes should form the core of the regulatory framework. In practical terms the inclusion of such outcomes could be facilitated by building on the work of the Tenants Union of Victoria in defining specific outcomes, indicators and targets for improving tenant outcomes through regulated minimum standards (Submission 3, Attachment A).
The Tenants Union of Queensland (Submission 8) recommended including an additional outcome on tenant engagement and empowerment covering performance requirements, to
offer a wide range of opportunities for tenants to have meaningful engagement in the management of their housing
have opportunities to influence the strategic priorities of providers
ensure that tenant views are actively sought when assessing providers’ compliance with the National Regulatory Code.
Other stakeholders highlighted the importance of strengthening references in Outcomes 1, 2 and 3 to special needs groups, including Indigenous and CALD communities and people with disability.
National Disability Services (Submission 4) stressed that the “National Regulatory Code should require a strong commitment to providing housing to groups who are very disadvantaged. Many people with disability are in this category.” NDS also recommended that “to support tenants with disability, reference should also be made requiring community housing providers to continually increase the proportion of their housing assets that meet Livable Housing Design principles.”
Stakeholders working with Indigenous communities recommended that the National Regulatory Code have specific requirements relating to the cultural sensitivity appropriateness of community housing services.
Homelessness Australia (Submission 11) highlighted that parts 1 and 3 of the National Community Housing Standards relating to tenancy management and tenants’ rights and participation should be protected and enhanced in the Code. Specifically, Shelter Tasmania (Submission 17) would like to see more explicit references in the Code to National Community Housing Standards 1.1 – 1.5 and 3.1 to 3.6—dealing with issues such as security of tenure, prevention of forced terminations, outsourcing of tenancy management, and tenant-focused services that place tenant rights, needs and interests at the core of their business.