Under Part 3 of the Housing Improvement Act 2016 (SA), the Minister for Social Housing has the power to issue orders requiring the assessment, improvement or demolition of a house that is undesirable or unfit for human habitation. Prescribed minimum housing standards are detailed in Part 3 of the Housing Improvement Regulations 2017 (SA).
The initial action is likely to be under section 13, which gives the Minister the authority to issue a housing assessment order to the owner of residential premises if he/she has reason to believe that the premises are unsafe or unsuitable for human habitation. An authorised officer would then conduct an assessment and provide a written report to the Minister.
Under section 11, if there is an imminent risk of death, serious illness or injury, an authorised officer may enter premises for the purposes of carrying out an inspection provided they notify the owner or occupier prior to the proposed entry. No qualification is made in the Act to specify the time frame for ‘prior’ notice so, even if notice is given immediately before the time of entry, this is likely to be valid. In cases not involving imminent risk of death or injury, at least 5 working days notice must be given to the owner or occupier of the proposed entry.
Depending on the report recommendations an order will be issued either to repair the house to a reasonable standard (housing improvement order) or to demolish the house (housing demolition order) [see ss 14, 15]. The maximum penalty for failing to comply with such an order is $10 000.
The Minister may apply to the Registrar-General to register the order in relation to land owned by the person on which the premises are located. The registration will operate as a charge on the land whereby the Minister can secure any costs or expenses incurred against the landowner [s 16].
Rent control notices [s 25]
Where a housing improvement notice has been issued the Minister may declare the premises to be subject to a rent control notice. The notice will be published in the Gazette. Before making a notice, however, the Minister must give the owner of the premises a preliminary rent control notice detailing the maximum rent proposed and inviting the owner to show why a rent control notice should not be made.
It is an offence under the Act for a person to charge, demand or receive rent in excess of the maximum rent imposed by the notice for which there is a maximum penalty of $2 500 [expiation fee: $210].
Review rights [s 33]
An application for review may be made to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (SACAT) in the following circumstances:
- by a person (i.e. occupier or tenant) who has been issued with a housing assessment order, housing improvement order or a housing demolition order or a notice to vacate [under section 34 of the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013 (SA)];
- the owner of a premises in respect of which a rent control notice has been made [also under section 34 of the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013 (SA)].
Any application must be made within 28 days of the order or notice being issued (unless the Tribunal permits an extension of time).
Reporting a substandard property
Substandard properties can be reported to the Housing Improvement Branch. An online form is available on the sa.gov.au website at Substandard properties.
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