Advice and advocacy for renters in every community

Published on 10/02/2020

Network Conference

Tenant Advocates are hard at work all across NSW – making sure tenants know their rights, so we can keep on building good homes and communities.

The Network of Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Services provides phone advice to tens of thousands of renters every year, has over 1 million sessions, and Tenant Advocates go to dozens of community legal education events in their local communities.

Yabun 2020
Yabun 2020: Paul van Reyk (Tenants' Union), Vicky Harding (Inner City Legal Centre), and Tim Leach (Community Legal Centres NSW) with two volunteers from Marrickville Legal Centre.

Almost 100 people came together for our Network Conference in Tweed Heads on Bundjalung land, late last year. The conference was a great success and included sessions on changes to tenancy law, transfers in social housing, electricity in land lease communities, engaging volunteers, and much more. We were also lucky to be able to participate in a cultural walk around the Walk on Water Track led by Uncle Victor Slockee.

Celebrating survival

Last month the Tenants’ Union of NSW was pleased to join many other Community Legal Centres at Yabun – to gather and celebrate the survival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Yabun is held on 26th January on the traditional lands of the Gadigal people in Sydney at Victoria Park. It was a great day with lots of deadly music, powerful stories, learning and making connections.

Two recent examples of our work with tenants…

Recently, the Tenants’ Union assisted the Greater Sydney Aboriginal Tenants’ Service to win compensation for and to save the home of an elderly Aboriginal woman.

The tenant had had ongoing problems, and made the decision to apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an order that rent was excessive and a compensation order for breach of quiet enjoyment. In August 2019, the Tribunal found in favour of the tenant and ordered the landlord to pay the tenant nearly $20,000. Following this, the landlord gave the the tenant a 90-day termination notice – an all too familiar reaction! However the landlord served this notice incorrectly. With our assistance, the tenant made another application to the Tribunal –  that the termination notice was retaliatory. Following the lodgement of that application, the landlord revoked its termination notice. The tenant has been able to continue her long-term tenancy.

The Western Sydney Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service (WESTS) was recently able to help a public housing tenant who was facing multiple issues, including extensive mental health issues.

The tenant's lease was ended by Department of Communities and Justice (Housing) because of damage he caused to the premises during a schizophrenic episode, and he was also placed on the ‘less than satisfactory former tenant’ list. (Former tenants placed on this list are not eligible for social housing.) He was unemployed, was on the verge of becoming homeless, and was simultaneously dealing with crippling health problems. When WESTS first got involved, he was in a long-term stay at a hospital ward.

WESTS collaborated with multiple parties including a NSW health worker and several client service officers from Housing. WESTS discovered that the amount of damage claimed by Housing – $12,000 – was incorrect and excessive. After a Tribunal application was lodged, and after extensive negotiations with Housing, a more reasonable settlement was reached whereby the tenant owed just over $3,000, to be paid in small fortnightly installments. It was also agreed that the tenants’ name would be removed from the ‘less than satisfactory former tenant’ list. This was a major relief for the tenant and will allow him to start to put his life back together.


WESTS stalls
Western Sydney Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Service offering tenancy information at various stalls across Western Sydney in 2019.