The long road
2020 was a tough year for most people, including staff at the Tenants’ Union. We all went through lockdown, faced travel restrictions, were separated from family, unable to attend important events and had to adapt to new practices to carry out our work. Finally, in December the Tenants’ Union was able to get out and about again and connect with services and residents. We went to Albury to deliver training to Tenant Advocates at the South West NSW Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service, and we also visited land lease communities at Corowa and Howlong.
Rivergum Holiday Park at Corowa is a small community with about 45 residents including Bob Myles who was one of the first home owners to take an electricity dispute to the Tribunal under the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act (the Act). In February 2017 the Tribunal made an order that the operator was to provide Mr Myles with copies of their electricity accounts so that he could check whether or not he was being overcharged. It was this decision that was later cited by a number of other home owners who were seeking access to their operator’s accounts under section 83 of the Act.
Despite being the first home owner to apply to the Tribunal, Mr Myles had to wait until November 2018 for the decision that he had been overcharged for electricity and was entitled to a refund. Mr Myles was the only home owner from Rivergum to take the dispute to the Tribunal however, in February 2019 the operator changed the way they calculated electricity charges for all home owners and further refunds were issued.
In January 2020 another home owner at Rivergum, Russell Miller, contacted the Tenants’ Union with a concern that the operator was still overcharging for electricity. With the assistance of the Tenants’ Union and local Tenants Service Mr Miller and Mr Myles made applications to the Tribunal regarding their electricity charges. The Tribunal found they were being overcharged and ordered refunds for both home owners.
Mr Miller then assisted nine other home owners to make Tribunal applications and in November 2020 the Tribunal made orders awarding refunds to all of the applicants.
When Julie Lee (Tenants’ Union), Rebecca Bryant and Lauren Richter (Tenant Advocates) met with the home owners from Rivergum, Russell presented Julie with a donation of $500 for the Tenants’ Union in appreciation of the assistance provided to home owners. Julie was moved by the generosity of the Rivergum residents who chipped in to provide the donation. Julie said “All services provided by the Tenants’ Union are free but it’s really lovely that Rivergum residents chose to acknowledge our assistance in this way. We are lucky to work with such a great group of people and very thankful for the donation.”
The Tenants’ Union would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the other residents and resident organisations who have also made donations. Your contributions help us to keep providing advice, information, resources and assistance to those who need it.
The Tenants’ Union also visited Kismet Riverside Lodge in Howlong where we were given a tour of the community by Ron Groves. Ron is currently facing termination of his site agreement because his home is on a short-term site. The Tenants Service and Tenants’ Union have been assisting Mr Groves for the past couple of years and it was great to finally meet him in person, despite the difficult circumstances that brought us together.
This article was published in Outasite Lite 39.