Public, community and affordable housing

Tenants in public and community housing have raised a number of questions relating specifically to their housing situation during the COVID-19 crisis.

DCJ Housing, Community Housing Providers and Specialist Homelessness Services have information on the Communities and Justice website here.

The information includes:

  • details for a range of support services
  • information about home visits
  • information about property maintenance and additional cleaning.
Can I be evicted?

 

Tenants in social housing, such as public and community housing are not protected by the COVID-19 tenancy regulations.

What happens if am behind in my rent?

Rents are set as a percentage of your income, so if someone in your household has lost their income you should immediately ask the landlord to reassess your rent. Note: the Covid-19 Disaster Payment is not considered assessable income for the purposes of rent setting for public and community housing tenants.

If you have concerns about how the arrears was calculated, make sure to seek advice from your local Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Service.

If you are in community housing and are worried you have an arrears debt get in touch with your provider and ask to negotiate a repayment plan.

What about other reasons?

See our Factsheet 10: Landlord ends agreement

 

What if I have lost income?

 

If you are a tenant of DCJ Housing or the Aboriginal Housing Office and you have lost your job as a result of Covid-19 you may be eligible for $5 minimum rent. This includes situations where:

  • you or a household member have lost a job due to COVID-19 and have applied for Centrelink income and are waiting for Centrelink payments to commence. The $5 minimum rent will apply until you start receiving Centrelink payments.
  • you or a household member are not working or have reduced hours of work, and are receiving the Covid-19 Disaster Payment. The $5 minimum rent will apply until you are no longer receiving Disaster Payment.

More information is available on the DCJ website about eligibility for the $5 minimum rent policy.

Note: The COVID-19 Disaster Payment is considered non-assessable income for the purposes of rent setting for public housing and community housing tenants.

Cleaning and maintenance

 

DCJ Reports that the cleaning of common and communal areas of their buildings will continue to be undertaken including increased common area cleaning programs in multi-unit and high-rise building complexes in the inner city of Sydney.

Cleaning services are occurring seven days per week, and there should be increased cleaning of floors, walls and surface areas in shared areas such as lifts, stairwells, foyers, and garbage chutes. There should also be regular cleaning of the lift cars, buttons and high frequency touch points in traffic and common areas. Hand sanitiser stations should have been installed in common area foyers of high-rise buildings.

If you think this is supposed to be occurring in your area but it is not we suggest reporting this to the Housing Contact Centre on 1800 422 322. 

If you are in community housing and are worried about cleaning services in common areas of your building, get in touch with your provider to ask what additional measures they are taking during this period. 

If you have a repair issue it is possible to call the Maintenance Line on 1800 422 322. This service remains available 24 hours a day.                  

For information on whether you are required to provide access to your landlord or another person authorised by your landlord under the COVID-19 rules, see the 'Do I need to provide access?' section of this Guide. 

Access by a landlord/agent or another person authorised by the landlord still needs to comply with the normal access rules as set out in the Residential Tenancies Act 2010. See our factsheet on Privacy and Access. (https://www.tenants.org.au/resources/privacy-and-access). 

 

Home visits


If you are in an area of NSW that is under stay at home orders, routine home visits from DCJ Housing staff in these areas are being rescheduled, or changed to a virtual home visit. Please see the DCJ Housing website for further information (as at Monday 11 October 2021 the NSW Government has not classified any areas as stay at home. The NSW Government may add areas to this category as COVID-19 outbreaks occur).

If you are a public housing or community housing tenant and are due to have a visit from your housing provider, you can contact your provider and ask to reschedule the visit if you feel unwell. 

For information on whether you are required to provide access to your landlord or another person authorised by your landlord under the COVID-19 rules, see the 'Do I need to provide access?' section of this Guide. 

Access by a landlord/agent or another person authorised by the landlord still needs to comply with the normal access rules as set out in the Residential Tenancies Act 2010. See our factsheet on Privacy and Access. (https://www.tenants.org.au/resources/privacy-and-access). 

If the landlord or agent is going to enter your home or bring individuals through your home, key health guidelines must be met, including that agents and landlords take steps to:

  • Ensure physical distancing of greater than 1.5m is maintained
  • Ensure people wear a face mask if unable to maintain 1.5m of physical distance from others
  • Promote good hygiene on premises, including providing hand sanitiser
  • Use digital platforms where possible to discourage physical contact
  • Keep detailed contact records of people attending open homes
What if I live in 'affordable housing'


If you live in affordable housing you may be covered by the COVID-19 tenancy protections. It depends whether or not the landlord is a social housing provider. In other words, is the landlord a community housing provider or is the landlord a private landlord who is receiving a rebate to provide a lower rent? Check your written residential tenancy agreement or ask for a copy. The landlord's name will be on the front of the agreement.

If the landlord is a social housing provider, and they either own the property or are head-leasing it from the owner, then you are not covered by the rules and the protection against evictions.

If your property is owned by a person or a company that is not a social housing provider and instead a social housing provider is managing the property for them, then you are covered by the rules.

How can our community work together to look out for each other?

 

It’s important we look out for each other during challenging times like this. You may want to reach out to neighbours or others in your community to check in and make sure they are okay. Here are a few safe ways you can stay connected with family, friends and neighbours during lockdown:

  • Call your friends and family more often. Let them know you are there. Send emails and use social media.
  • Check in on older neighbours or vulnerable people over the phone to make sure they are ok.
  • Drop off food and medications to people who can’t get out easily, or who are more at risk of infection. Leave things at the door instead of going inside, and tell the person you have done this by phone call or message.

If you live in a building with shared foyer or lobby areas, lifts, stairwells and corridors, and shared laundry facilities of apartment complexes NSW Health currently strongly advises you wear a face mask in these common areas. This advice applies to everyone, including residents, visitors, building managers, contractors, delivery drivers and cleaners.

NSW Health is also strongly encouraging everyone 18 years or over to book a Covid-19 vaccination if they are eligible. NSW Health provides updated advice here: Covid-19 Vaccination in NSW.

COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone in Australia regardless of Medicare or visa status.

What is a ‘building lock-in’? What would it mean for me?

 

A ‘building lock-in’ (also sometimes referred to as ‘building quarantine’, or ‘building lockdown’ or 'hard lockdown') can occur where NSW Public Health determines that all residents of a building are required to self-isolate for a period of time. We are aware of a number of instances in which all residents of a unit block have been subject to a ‘lock-in’ and asked to self-isolate during the current NSW lockdown. This has occurred in social housing blocks, but also various buildings in the general community. In these instances, all residents of the buildings were required to self-isolate for 14 days. NSW Health worked with the NSW Police to ensure compliance under the public health act.

DCJ Housing has been working with other government agencies including NSW Health and Resilience NSW, and the community sector, including the Tenants’ Union of NSW, to ensure strategies are in place in the event that a Covid-19 outbreak occurs in a public or community housing building. The guidelines developed for this purpose make clear that a ‘lockdown of a public housing building is considered a last resort’. However, where it is determined by NSW Health that a building ‘lock-in’ of a public or community housing building is required for the health and welfare of residents and the community the guidelines provide a range of strategies and supports to be put in place for residents.  

More information about DCJ Housing planning and response during Covid-19, including the guidelines, is available on their website. We understand Community Housing Providers have also developed strategies in the event of a ‘building lock-in’, however we are not aware of similar available guidelines for Community Housing Providers. 

If a 'building lock-in’ occurs what supports will be available?

 

In the event of a ‘building lock-in’ (or ‘building quarantine’ or ‘building lockdown’) your social housing provider will work with a range of organisations to make sure that during the quarantine period you have essential items, such as food, pet food, medication and/or other medical supplies, and personal care items (toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, etc). If required a food hamper and a hamper with personal care items will be provided for you. Let your housing provider know if you have any special dietary requirements.

A range of other services, including laundry services, rubbish removal, daily welfare checks and mental health support will be made available for you. Information will be provided to you about how you will receive mail and other deliveries and how you can arrange for delivery of online orders or other items.

If you have difficulty speaking or understanding English, or you are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech impairment, you can ask for your housing provider to organise an interpreter to help you.

If you have school aged children with you during a 'building lock-in', your housing provider will work with the Department of Education to ensure they have access to learning materials and wellbeing supports during this time.

Additional support will be generally be made available to you from local community and non-government agencies. This may mean staff from your local community centre or support service work with government agencies on the ground during the ‘lock-in’ to provide you with support.

Other available advice and resources: