Disasters – storm, fire, flood etc – news and analysis

Tenants' Union Annual Report 2019-2020

Tenants' Union Annual Report Cover
The past year has been an extraordinary one for the Tenants’ Union, by any measure. Unprecedented bushfires and then flooding across NSW drove many displaced tenants to tenancy services for support. Several months of natural disasters then gave way to the COVID-19 pandemic which not only drove a record number of tenants to our online resources looking for information and advice but it forced the Tenants’ Union’s own staff to start working remotely. During these external challenges, this year the Tenants’ Union was also forced to look for a new office space and recruit a new CEO. It has been an incredible year of change, but the staff at the Tenants’ Union have taken it in their stride and risen to every challenge. 
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Renters' Guide to COVID-19

Renters' Guide to COVID-19
The Renters' Guide to COVID-19 covers common questions about renting in New South Wales during the Coronavirus pandemic. The Tenants' Union of NSW is working hard to keep this Guide up to date.
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We need to talk about the landlord

Graphic of a family in a house, wearing masks, virus outside
We don’t only need to talk about the relationship between tenants and landlords – we also need to talk about the landlords themselves. A key flaw exposed through the response to COVID‑19 is the profile of those who act as landlords in Australia. They are heavily indebted. They are mostly without training or expertise. As a result, they were scared and desperate and clinging firmly to the one power dynamic they felt they had control over. The need for a more compassionate response to tenants was as apparent to everyone as were the barriers.
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No grounds for limiting reform under COVID-19

Graphic of a family in a house, wearing masks, virus outside
Jemima Mowbray looks at the problems renters have faced during COVID‑19, and shows that they are not new or necessarily distinct from the ongoing issues renting households were already facing. The COVID‑19 health crisis has highlighted and exacerbated existing inequalities and problems experienced by renters – most acutely, the problems of housing insecurity and the lack of affordable rental housing.
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Responding to tenancy issues under COVID‑19

Graphic of people in a house, wearing masks, virus outside
The Tenants' Union is attempting to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on tenants, within the limitations we have. In NSW we are already hearing from tenants that landlords have been ignoring requests to negotiate rent reductions from COVID impacted tenants, or delaying responses. They have been offering rent deferrals rather than the reductions as required under the protection framework, and in many cases are deciding for themselves that tenants who meet the definition of ‘impacted tenants’ are not eligible. Too many landlords have not been negotiating in good faith as required under the law, and too many landlords have been using harassment to pursue rental arrears while refusing to participate in rent negotiations with COVID‑19 impacted tenants. Eviction notices have been served to tenants for rental arrears, in spite of the evictions moratorium. No grounds eviction notices are being served to tenants, and landlords are using COVID‑19 as a reason to defer repairs and maintenance.
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A day in the life of Esther Smith, Tenant Advocate

Esther at GSATS
Esther Smith is a Tenant Advocate at the Greater Sydney Aboriginal Tenants' Service (GSATS). In this interview she talks about her day-to-day experiences as an advocate, as well as what keeps her motivated and inspired.
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Tenancy services needed now more than ever

A mother and child sitting on a couch. The mother is wearing a face mask.
Pamela Hunter, Community Services Manager at VERTO, writes: "Tenancy, and renting in general, became very popular subjects at the beginning of the pandemic but they seem to have slipped from the headlines of late. At VERTO, my team works with those most vulnerable in the community, the people most at risk of being evicted, even under the protections that have been put in place for this period. Here’s how the pandemic has impacted those most vulnerable in the housing market..."
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Secure, affordable tenancies and support for tenants key to preventing homelessness

TU logo
Today the Tenants' Union NSW's CEO Leo Patterson Ross and Policy and Advocacy Coordinator Jemima Mowbray attended a public hearing of the Inquiry into Homelessness in Australia to speak to the Tenants' Union's submission. We've published our opening statement here.
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COVID-19 factsheet in 7 community languages

Covid-19 community language factsheet
The Tenants' Union has published a basic factsheet in 7 community languages summarising renters rights under COVID-19 regulations. The factsheet has information on paying rent, evictions, the rules on access to rented properties for getting repairs done, inspections for sale of premises, and other issues that renters are facing.
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Tenants need to be listened to: community support – not heavy-handed policing

Tall apartment building with 'Our home' on the side
On the weekend over 3,000 public housing tenants in Melbourne were put into an immediate enforced lockdown by the VIC government due to a spike in COVID-19 in the area. Others in the community are not facing the same level of restriction because their housing and community infrastructure is of a higher standard. This is punishment simply for the crime of being poor in a society that places the blame for poverty on the people experiencing it.
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