On Wednesday 17 October 2018, the Western Australian Minister for Commerce and Industrial Relations, Mr Bill Johnston (the Minister), introduced the Residential Parks (Long-stay Tenants) Amendment Bill 2018 (WA) (the Bill) into Parliament. The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Residential Parks (Long-stay Tenants) Act 2006 (32 of 2006) [WA] (the Act) in order to implement the recommendations of a statutory review undertaken in accordance with section 96 of the Act which provides for a review of the operation of the Act to be carried out by the Minister as soon as practicable after the end of the period of a five years beginning on the commencement of the Act. The Bill is seeking to implement recommendations aimed at improving certainty of contract and fair dealings between long stay parties and the owners of residential parks. The Bill also proposes amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (WA) (the RTA).
The Minister has said that park residents, who in the main are seniors, are in a vulnerable position, as while they own their homes, they do not own the land they are built on. Current laws do not offer any protection to them in the event that the park is sold or where the operator’s lender took possession of the park in cases of bankruptcy or liquidation. According to the Minister:
Key amendments proposed by the Bill include:
Additionally the Bill proposes to:
The Bill gives the WA State Administrative Tribunal the power to make a number of specific orders and directions in relation to matters arising under long-stay agreements. These powers include:
The Bill also gives the WA State Administrative Tribunal the power to consider whether either party has engaged in "unconscionable" or "misleading and deceptive conduct", made "false or misleading representations", or has used physical force or undue harassment or coercion. These amendments made by the Bill are to ensure that the WA State Administrative Tribunal has the power to deal with all matters arising in relation to a dispute about a long-stay agreement
Estimates as to the number of residents living in residential parks across WA vary from 5,000 to 20,000, with the key reason for residing in a long stay park being the lifestyle and feeling of community the residents get from living in the parks. In many cases, these residents prefer spending their money on other aspects of their lives such as, travel and caravans. The President of the Park Home Owners Association of WA, Ken Mann, welcomed the changes when they were first proposed, saying they covered many of areas of key concern facing many residents of Long Stay Parks.
WA is not the only jurisdiction to have legislated to provide greater protection to tenants in Long Stay Parks. For example, Victoria as part of its Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2018 has also legislated to make reforms that extend to renters living in caravan and residential parks, and provided provisions for compensation should their park close. Furthermore, those reforms provide that park owners will also be subject to stricter notification and processes before they are able to close down their park. See our previous article here.
The Victorian Government points to similar reasons for reform of the law:
At the time of writing the WA Bill has reached second reading stage in the Assembly,
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Residential Parks (Long-stay Tenants) Amendment Bill 2018 (99 of 2018) [WA] and second reading speech and explanatory memorandum as reported in the TimeBase LawOne Service
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