The NSW state government has defended its new tenancy dispute service after the REINSW slammed it as a waste of money.
Last week, Residential Property Manager reported that the NSW state government was planning to introduce a new ‘layer’ to the tenancy dispute process, after months of consolidation and promises of cutting red tape.
However, a spokesperson from NSW Fair Trading believes the service doesn’t detract from the new NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), instead providing a free alternative.
“NSW Fair Trading is offering a voluntary and free complaint handling service to assist in the resolution of tenancy disputes. Tenants, landlords and agents can lodge a complaint and Fair Trading will provide negotiation of the issues in dispute,” they said.
According to the spokesperson, the negotiation is generally undertaken by telephone or email. However, for "complex matters", onsite negotiations by "experienced Fair Trading officers" may be necessary.
“Unlike the Tribunal, this is a completely free service that does not require the parties to physically attend a venue as matters are dealt with via phone and email, saving business time and travel costs.
“This complaint handling process model has proved highly successful in other industry sectors such as motor vehicles and home building complaints. The objective of this service is not to replace the Tribunal but, where possible, resolve matters with minimal effort and cost to agents, landlords and tenants,” the spokesperson said.
President of the Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW) Malcolm Gunning said that the institute’s position on the topic is that the service is government money spent in the wrong place.
“The NSW Fair Trading service is a waste of time for all parties involved,” Mr Gunning said.
“All it is going to do is increase time. There is no compulsion, participants don’t have to take the advice and in the end, most will end up at NCAT anyway.”
While Fair Trading admit that their mediation service provides a non-enforceable ruling, the spokesperson claims it has a proven track record.
“It is well recognised that early mutual resolutions of disputes are more cost effective and convenient. Far from adding another layer of red tape, this process obviates the need for the more expensive step of lodging a claim with the tribunal," the spokesperson said.
“Simply, this is an additional option available to landlords, property agents and tenants to resolve a dispute and does not impede a party going directly to the tribunal.
“Almost 60 per cent of matters handled by Fair Trading since 1 January 2014 have resulted in the offer and acceptance of a resolution in less than 14 days.”