Law centre busy with Centrelink, rent and domestic enquiries

Law centre busy with Centrelink, rent and domestic enquiries

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The Gosnells Legal Centre responds to the new Residential Tenancy Act. Photograph — Richard Polden.

The Gosnells Community Legal Centre is currently in high demand, mainly for rent-related issues.

Managing lawyer Patrick Mungar said the centre has now introduced all the needed measures to follow the government’s social distancing measures, with most of their staff now working from home.

In addition, Mr Mungar said the centre has received many enquiries from renters even before this week’s rent announcement.

“Most enquiries are from renters who have been laid off or lost work hours and say that they are no longer able to afford their rent,” he said.

“Other people fear losing their jobs and want advice about what to do if they can no longer pay rent.”

Ms Mungar said the team is mentioning the $750 cash payment to Centrelink recipients, the fortnightly $550 increase of the Jobseeker payments from the end of April and the new $1500 per fortnight JobKeeper payment to allow workers to retain their jobs.

“We also advise on the moratorium on evictions announcement for tenants facing financial distress if they are unable to meet their commitments because of coronavirus, with details being worked out now,” he said.

“Because of these measures we are hopeful that tenants are being reassured that job losses due to coronavirus will not cause them to be evicted in the
next few months.

Evictions have to be ordered by courts and these take time.

“Our first step, as always, is to contact the landlord and negotiate a resolution.

“Once we know what the anti-eviction laws will provide, we will be able to inform landlords if proposed evictions are illegal.

“For tenants who will not be helped by the government measures, our centre has access to a generous Emergency Relief (ER) grant from Lotterywest which allows us to make some payments in appropriate cases to prevent evictions.

“Hopefully most of the cases will be covered by the new government measures to allow us to use the ER funds only in a few unusual cases.”

In addition, Mr Mungar said they were also aware that family and domes
tic violence becomes more prevalent in times of stress.

“Financial hardship, loss of jobs and being cooped up at home are bound to increase stress on families and family and domestic violence are bound to increase,” he said.

“It is heartening that courts are modifying their procedures to make it easier for victims of family and domestic violence to make applications for restraining orders.

“We would like the community to rest assured that although the centre has limited face to face services, due to coronavirus, we and the courts have put in place a number of measures which will enable us to continue to provide our full range of services although they will be provided in different ways from now on.”