Reflections on 10 years of Tenant Advocacy
After 10 and a half years, Maralyn Schofield is leaving her role as Coordinator of the Northern Rivers Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Service (NORTAAS). We took the opportunity to ask her for some reflections...
When did you start working as a Tenant Advocate?
I’ve been in the Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Services Network and at NORTAAS since October 2009.
What has changed and what has stayed the same in the time you’ve been a Tenant Advocate?
In my 10 and a half years there’s been lots of change to the various ‘bits’ of legislation we advise on.
What has stayed the same unfortunately, is that even with legislative change the law still heavily favours the landlord over the tenant in many instances.
What are some of the things a Tenant Advocate does on a day-to-day basis?
On a day to day basis Tenant Advocates hear all sorts of stories, many of them of hardship. We do a lot of listening and a lot of sifting through those stories to find the ‘legal problem’ so we can give our clients the best possible advice.
What are some of the most memorable stories – the best and the worst experiences?
There are so many memorable stories, and tenants, after 10 and a half years as a Tenant Advocate. Some of them are unprintable. Working in a regional/rural area, we find people living in all manner of accommodation with some outrageous ‘agreements’ with their landlords. It has never ceased to amaze me how many landlords in rural areas think the law doesn’t apply to them. We always take great pleasure in helping those landlords understand that it does.
What would you like to see change for tenants in NSW?
What I’d like to see changed for tenants in NSW is a fairly long list. The Government of the day at both a State and Federal level, really need to get onto addressing the housing affordability crisis, including abolishing negative gearing and building more affordable and public housing. Whilst I have seen lots of legislative change in the last 10 and a half years, it hasn’t gone close to creating fairness and equity for tenants. Let’s start by abolishing those ridiculous 'no-grounds' notices, and binning that awful anti-social behaviour legislation in social housing!
What are some of the ‘top tips’ you would give to tenants?
My top tips for tenants include reading and understanding your contract before you sign it. The Tenants' Union website is an absolute wealth of information for tenants, and the old classic GET IT IN WRITING!
What’s next for you?
What’s next for me? I’m off to the pub!