High quality legal advice and assistance provided directly to tenants 2015-2016

This is achieved through our Monday tenant advice line, strategic litigation and an advice line dedicated to boarding house residents and people in custody.

Tenants’ Advice Line

We operate a Tenants’ Advice Line on Mondays from 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm with the assistance of a pool of eight volunteers. We provided advice or referral to 1,018 callers. The Advice Line keeps our legal staff up to date on issues affecting tenants and provides an opportunity for volunteers to increase their knowledge and skill in dealing with tenancy matters. The Advice Line can also flag ongoing or emerging systemic issues that require investigation and action.

We also provided information and referral on 1,294 occasions outside of Advice Line hours, an increase of just over 100 percent on 2014-15, and dealt with a further 284 inquiries through our social media platforms, an increase of 39 percent on 2014 - 2015.

Strategic litigation cases – highlights

  • Bennett v Gennacker Pty Ltd – This matter was a significant win for residential park residents regarding which Act of Parliament should cover them. The NSW Court of Appeal found that the Tribunal had correctly declined to apply the Holiday Parks (Long-term Casual Occupation) Act 2002 (HPAct). The Tribunal found that at least one of the four conditions of application of the Act had not been fulfilled. That is, the residents did not have a principal place of residence elsewhere. So, section 5 (re application) of the Act was not satisfied. This is important because there are significantly less protections for residents in the HPAct than in the Residential Parks Act 1998 (repealed) and the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act 2013.
  • The long running matters regarding change of use of a residential park and compensation to residents are still underway. These matters are now in their fourth year, having been heard in five venues for seven sets of proceedings. The residents are to be congratulated for their stamina. These matters are an important test for fair compensation for terminated site agreements.
  • On application of a Local Aboriginal Land Council, the Tribunal made eviction orders for illegal use of the premises. At the time of the illegal use, the tenant was absent from the premises. Application to the Appeal Panel of the Tribunal resulted in a settlement between landlord and tenant such that the tenant was appropriately housed.
  • The last of the Badgerys Creek airport site tenants have moved out (February 2016). Appropriate time to remove was urged and gained by submissions to the Federal Circuit Court in October 2015. Removal of these matters to a Commonwealth court by Commonwealth legislation made the processes longer, more costly and more difficult.
  • A private landlord denied the application of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 and took proceedings in the Supreme Court. This finally resulted in a settlement whereby the tenant was resident longer than would have been the case under the Act. This was a positive outcome for the tenant and was a strategic win to discourage denying the Residential Tenancies Act.
  • Two cases of social housing providers using no grounds termination notices have been litigated and then appropriately settled ensuring no tenant was made homeless. These matters are important in highlighting and preventing poor policy decisions of social housing providers. The Tenants’ Union maintains that anyone about to loose their home should have the opportunity to hear proposed reasons and challenge them.
  • Another social housing provider sought to evict a person with a disability. The landlord was successful at the Tribunal and before the Appeal Panel. The Tenants’ Union sought review of the Appeal Panel decision in the Supreme Court. This resulted, at length, in a settlement whereby the tenant was not evicted and has greater support to maintain the tenancy.

Advice to people in custody

Research clearly demonstrates that having housing available when leaving custody significantly reduces recidivism. Our solicitors are available for transfer of calls from Law Access and the Prisoners Legal Service five days per week in order to improve opportunities for timely advice on renting matters for people in custody. This works is supported by a strong relationship with the Women in Prisons Advocacy Network (WIPAN), the Community Restorative Centre (CRC) and Legal Aid.

 

> TU Annual Report 2015-2016 contents