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Tenant sues HNSW and WINS!

A Department of Housing tenant in Sydney's notorious Redfern area has successfully sued the Department of Housing for failing to provide her with "quiet enjoyment" following an ongoing dispute with a neighbour over antisocial behaviour reports Our House Swap on 11 March 2011.

A Victory for Public Housing Tenants – and a message to Housing NSW - We are NOT going to take this anymore!

A Department of Housing tenant in Sydney's notorious Redfern area has successfully sued the Department of Housing for failing to provide her with "quiet enjoyment" following an ongoing dispute with a neighbour over antisocial behaviour.

The Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal found Housing NSW had failed to act within Residential Tenancies Act 1987 - Sect 22, to ensure “reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of the tenant”.

This landmark ruling opens the floodgates for other public housing tenants affected by antisocial behaviour to take the Department of Housing to task for its poor management.

For over two years Housing knowingly breached the terms of Ms K’s lease and did little to rectify the breach in spite of a continuous effort on her behalf and on behalf of all the other tenants in the street. One noisy, anti-social neighbour and her many visitors destroyed the harmonious inner city community by her continual loud parties, vandalism of property and criminal behaviour. She was so successful in her intimidation of all the neighbours that several were too afraid to give evidence in court.

Ms K and the other neighbours submitted hundreds of pages of incident reports and complaints over a two year period but Housing failed to act on a single one. The file was passed around to more than ten staff members and each in turn failed to act. In desperation and frustration, the tenants appealed to their local Member of Parliament, Kristina Keneally, who also failed to act.

After nearly two years of complete mismanagement by Housing NSW, the only recourse was the Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal and papers were filed in August 2010. Initiating delaying tactics, HNSW failed to turn up to two of the three hearings but the case went ahead without them. Over a hundred pages of evidence was presented to the CTTT along with a series of tape recordings of the noise. The only defence offered by Housing was a handful of fabricated incident reports with incorrect dates and fictitious events.

In the end after seven months delay, Ms K’s evidence spoke for itself and the Tribunal upheld the claim and awarded a partial rent refund to the affected family in March 2011.

For many years families living in public housing have watched their communities devolve into slums and their rights as tenants gradually be undermined and diluted.

Once the politicians start labelling it as “housing of last resort”, the motivation of the public servants tasked to manage the portfolio wanes. They just allocate new tenants to houses and then sit back and shuffle papers, write reports and apply for promotions. The politicians create policy that will never be enforced, then quote numbers and percentages at the media and the media perpetuates the concept of “just Housos”.

By far the biggest problem affecting decent tenant’s living standards is anti-social behaviour.

This is a broad brush and can be anything from barking dogs and disputes over common areas through to to violent and noisy neighbours and vandalism of property. Many acts of  anti-social behaviour  are not criminal acts  so the Police can do little but calm the situation until the next time. These problems are not limited to public housing. Private rentals are also affected, especially where they border onto large public housing estates.

Housing NSW have policies in place to deal with anti-social tenants but rarely pursue the issue or enforce their own policy. They have many options available to them: Acceptable Behaviour Agreements, Specific Performance Orders, CJC Mediation, Renewable Tenancy, Transfer under Tenancy Management and finally eviction.

However, their tendency is to allow the problem to escalate until it is a Police matter and they can successfully wipe their hands of it.

Early intervention and implementation of existing policies would alleviate the “crisis management” mentality. It would also alleviate the necessity of burdening the Police service, DoCS and the Health Dept with problems that could have and should have been solved within Housing.

The noisy, anti-social tenant in Ms K’s case was never held accountable for her behaviour; she was simply relocated to another property where she is free to begin her reign of terror with another set of neighbours. She left behind a trashed house and a $5000 cleanup bill for the NSW taxpayers to absorb.

So the complete mismanagement of Housing NSW continues – unless more tenants make them accountable. Ms K is hoping her experience will lead the way for more cases to proceed to CTTT and that Housing will finally begin to act on their own policies and that more tenants can look forward to peace returning to their communities.

Footnotes

1. Residential Tenancies Act 1987 No 26 Sect 22   Tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment

(1)  It is a term of every residential tenancy agreement that:

(a)  the tenant shall have quiet enjoyment of the residential premises without interruption by the landlord or any person claiming by, through or under the landlord or having superior title (for example, a head landlord) to that of the landlord, and

(b)  the landlord or the landlord’s agent shall not interfere, or cause or permit any interference, with the reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of the tenant in using the residential premises.

(2)  A landlord or a landlord’s agent under a residential tenancy agreement shall not, during the currency of the agreement, contravene or fail to comply with subsection (1).

Now amended to:

Residential Tenancies Act 2010 - Sect 50
(3) A landlord or landlord's agent must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the landlord's other neighbouring tenants do not interfere with the reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of the tenant in using the residential premises.

Find out more on Our House Swap - How to make Housing accountable - the Basics

 

Source: www.ourhouseswap.com.au - Tenant SUES Housing NSW - and WINS!!!

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