Bad tenants cause $28m debt

Bad public housing tenants owe the Department of Housing more than $28 million for damage to homes and unpaid rent and water bills.

The department's figures show the outstanding debt of tenants was $28,132,429 at June 30 - or about 13 per cent of the $211,115,620 in rent and debt collected that year.

In 2011-12 when the department collected $201.9 million, tenants owed $24.4 million. The year before, when $185.8 million was collected, $20.5 million was outstanding.

Department of Housing general manager of service delivery Steve Parry said the outstanding debt included rent, tenant liability for damage and rubbish removal, unpaid water bills and vacated debt, which was money owed or charged when the tenant moved.

Mr Parry said the department made "significant attempts" to negotiate repayments before it pursued tenants through the courts.

He said the department made it clear to housing applicants with debt from past tenancies that they had to make arrangements to pay it off before the department would assist them further.

"The department's success in collecting debt from public housing tenants is limited by low incomes, life circumstances and the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act," Mr Parry said.

"The department is unable to compel tenants who may cancel arrangements to repay debt through Centrelink at any time."

Shadow housing minister Fran Logan questioned the effort to recoup money owed.

"They are bound to write off quite a number of outstanding rental debts and money outstanding from cleaning up places," he said.

"There are always difficult circumstances for people who are public housing tenants.

"But for those who are bad public housing tenants who deliberately walk away from taxpayer-funded homes leaving huge debts, and some do do that, you have to question if they are then reallocated other public housing."

Housing Minister Bill Marmion said most tenants did the right thing and the department had to abide by the Tenancies Act. "We are as tough as we can be within the dictates of the law," he said.

Public housing tenants caused $11.4 million damage to taxpayer-funded homes last year.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Compare & Save

Follow Us

More from The West