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Tribunal fee hits low income tenants: Labour

2000 web siteLabour housing spokesperson Graham Kelly says low income tenants in rental houses are being priced out of justice in tenancy disputes.

Mr Kelly said figures from the Audit Office estimate a 28 per cent drop in the number of applications lodged to the Tenancy Tribunal for the coming year. A $20 fee, to be paid by applicants to the tribunal, was introduced for the first time last year.

At the time, the social services select committee expressed its concern that "although the $20 fee would not be a barrier to landlords, it may be a barrier to tenants".

"Sadly this has proved to be correct," Mr Kelly said.

"The Ministry of Housing's chief executive David Smyth has told the select committee that the fee has had a considerable impact on the number of people using the tribunal.

"My concern is that the impact has been greater on tenants than landlords, and greatest on those low income families who can least afford the charges. Once again the government's adherence to its user-pays ideology is showing itself to discriminate against the most vulnerable.

Last financial year more than 50,000 applications were made to the tribunal. In the next financial year, when the full impact of the $20 fee is felt, the figure will drop dramatically to an estimated 38,000, according to the Audit Office figures.

"Low income families are missing out on justice. They are already paying for the cost of running the tribunal through their bonds - now they are being asked to pay more. It is grossly unfair," Mr Kelly said.

"Justice should be available to all - not just to those who can afford it.

"Last year the Ministry told the select committee it would undertake a full review of the impact of the charges in February 1999. That was not done.

"Through the select committee, I have asked that the review now be given priority."

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