For Queenslanders who live on the margins of significant poverty making a home for themselves can be a significant and ongoing challenge. Lack of legal remedies to assist with the recovery of wrongfully withheld possessions, which are not of value in a commercial sense, is part of the difficulty in maintaining a sense of home for people who are regularly forced to relocate due to short-term tenancies or other factors impacting on the security of housing.
Typically, the legal remedies that do exist in the higher courts are outside the grasp of Caxton Legal Centre’s clients. The recovery of possessions has been a long-standing issue for our clients and few have ever, to our knowledge, been able to take the necessary action to pursue a claim in the District Court.
Caxton proposes that current reform relating to the recovery of goods in the Magistrates Court be extended to give the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal the jurisdiction to deal with detinue claims (recovery of wrongfully withheld possessions) less than $25,000.00 in value. Just because the value of the goods concerned is low, affected clients should not be denied access to justice, particularly as the value of items is frequently personal rather than monetary.
We regularly see our clients simply abandon their rights because taking legal action is just too difficult or expensive. Remedies need to be accessible and effective in a practical sense and QCAT is the ideal forum for this.
Caxton Legal Centre has recommended that QCAT be granted the power to deal with low-value detinue claims in our submission to the Queensland Government’s Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill consultation. Such an amendment would genuinely provide for poorer Queenslanders to recover possession of their belongings when living in insecure housing.