News & Media
SACAT and The Residential Tenancies Tribunal
23 Mar 15
SACAT - IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR PROPERTY MANAGERS
On 30 March 2015 the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) will commence operations. At the outset SACAT will deal with matters which previously have been dealt with by the Residential Tenancies Tribunal, Guardianship Board and the Housing Appeals Panel. Over time a number of other matters will also be dealt with by SACAT through a staged transition process to occur over the next few years.
There are a number of issues about which property managers should be aware arising from the introduction of SACAT.
Use of technology in SACAT
A significant development with SACAT will be the improved technology for the Tribunal. All files will be digital and there will be an on-line application form. The on-line form should be a significant benefit for property agents – once their application is lodged together with supporting documents (which are uploaded) and the fee, the application is recorded on the system and the applicant receives a number which can be used to track the progress of the application. Regular Tribunal “users” will be able to use a “my cases” facility to track their matters in the Tribunal. Ultimately the use of the on-line form will substantially reduce the amount of work done by the administrative staff in putting applications on the system and listing them. Our objective is that staff will be able to use that time to respond to customer enquiries and so on.
For those who feel they are not able to complete an on-line form they can come in to SACAT at 100 Pirie Street and receive assistance at a “kiosk” area on the fourth floor to complete their on-line form, or they may ring the Tribunal on a free call number and a staff member will complete the form for them. Paper applications can still be lodged but will be discouraged.
Another significant development in this area is the automatic listing of applications for vacant possession on the basis of a simple breach for failure to pay rent. When a landlord or agent properly completes the application form, pays the fee and lodges the tenancy agreement and Form 2 (notice of breach), then the system will automatically allocate the hearing to the next available slot in the hearing schedule. We estimate that these matters are approximately 20% of our work and so again this will substantially reduce the amount of work done by the administrative staff so that they can spend more time responding to customer enquiries.
Other improvements in this area will include notices of hearing being sent by email and SMS messages being sent about hearings.
Facilities at SACAT
Property managers should find the facilities at 100 Pirie Street vastly improved:-
- There are now security cameras in every room which are monitored by a security guard located on that floor;
- The security guard has the power to use a metal detector and to search bags;
- Additional security may be arranged for specific hearings;
- Security will be arranged for regional hearings;
* There are now 7 hearing rooms and 4 mediation rooms (which will be used for conciliation conferences);
* In addition there are 2 interview rooms – agents may use Interview room 4 to speak to witnesses or their landlord privately;
*All hearing rooms now have audio recording in them;
*Video conferencing equipment is far better and located in 2 hearing rooms – this will be used for regional matters which are appropriately dealt with by video conference;
*There is technology present in every room to assist those with a hearing impairment.
Information sessions are being run at SACAT specifically for each stream (residential tenancy work will be dealt with by the Housing and Civil stream). Anyone who wishes to attend a session should log on to the SACAT website (www.sacat.sa.gov.au) to make a booking – if the sessions are full there will be further sessions run in April and May.
Customer service focus of SACAT
There will be a different structure of the administrative staff in SACAT – there will be three teams each with a team leader. Those teams are – vacant possession applications, bond/compensation applications and other applications. There are a number of aims in introducing this new structure – to enable staff to develop specialised expertise, so that customer enquiries can be more readily dealt with and to encourage a case management style approach with greater accountability.
The changes in technology which are being introduced in SACAT will be beneficial however, in the short term there may be some minor “glitches”. Although a substantial amount of work has been put into the new system and training staff and members we ask our users to be patient. Due to the time required for training and to allow members slightly longer to deal with each matter, we cannot list our usual 50 hearings a day for the 2 weeks before the introduction of SACAT and the 2 weeks after the introduction of SACAT. This will have an impact on the waiting times for hearings but we are anticipating running additional hearing rooms in May, June and July to address any backlog.
Although the majority of members currently on the Residential Tenancies Tribunal will also be on SACAT, some of the current members will not for a variety of reasons. There will be new members commencing in the Housing and Civil stream of SACAT in mid-April. There will also be 2 new dispute resolution officers who will be conducting conciliation conferences. These new members and officers will be provided with extensive training and mentoring. Their orders will be checked for some time as a “quality control” mechanism. A large volume of work has also been put into creating a system where Tribunal members and the dispute resolution officers can easily generate an order from a selection of options. Hopefully these steps will assist with consistency in decisions.
The fee will be increased to $69.00 with essentially the same fee waiver provisions. In addition, there will be a fee if a person making a claim on a security bond (or is claiming for compensation plus the bond) wishes for the Tribunal to deal with that dispute. The process will be that the Commissioner will still notify the Tribunal about the dispute and the Tribunal will then write to the claimant informing them that if they wish to proceed in the Tribunal, then they must lodge an application plus supporting documents and pay the fee. This will not affect the process by which parties may deal with a bond by agreement through the security bond refund form (without it coming to the Tribunal).
The good news is that there will no longer be a fee for an application based on a tenant’s failure to comply with a payment plan contained in a Tribunal order provided the order was made within the preceding 12 months.
If you have any questions about this, please call Paul Edwards at REISA on 8366 4362 for further clarification.Back