I have had many requests from other victims of anti-social neighbours to produce a "how to" guide... so here it is:
How to put Housing on notice that you are not going to take this anymore!
Firstly - print out this statement in large letters and stick it on your fridge; say it to yourself every morning and repeat it to every Housing staff member you encounter:
1. Gather Evidence:
a) Record every single incident on paper. Housing provide a nice little form called the "Serious Incident Report". Go to Housing and collect 20 of these forms. Note the time and date and be very accurate.
b) Tape record incidents and noise. You are not allowed to video record anyone without their permission but you are allowed to tape record if you are wholly within your own property.Transcribe all tapes so that the court can hear the evidence as well as read the evidence. Make sure times and dates are accurately recorded.
c) Photograph damage, vandalism, etc preferably with the time/date stamp on the photo.
d) Get medical reports from your doctor about how the stress is affecting your health.
e) Get witnesses. And get witnesses that will actually come to court and give evidence. The more independant the better - your mother's evidence doesn't carry much weight.
f) Write a letter every single week. If they have not satisfactorily dealt with last weeks letter, ask them why... IN WRITING! Do not miss a week. If you do not keep up a constant stream of letters, when it gets to court they will defend their position by saying that it hasn't been ongoing and constant noise/ violence/ anti-social behaviour.
g) Keep your papers and evidence neat and organised in date order, in a folder. When you reach court, you will need three copies. One for you, one for the Tribunal Member and one for the Housing Legal Rep. Number every page in the top right corner in large numbers, in dark texta. You will need to find pages quickly in the courtroom and then you can easily refer to "on page 59..." etc.
2. Present evidence to Housing:
a) Do not phone Housing to complain. They will not record that you called and will deny that you complained.
b) Deliver all paper reports to your Housing office - get them to date stamp them and photocopy them and then keep the copy.
c) Do not attend any interview with Housing without an independant witness. Get this witness to take along a pen and paper and record everything that is said. Write this up straight after the interview and give Housing a copy.
d) Remind Housing of their responsibility to you - the legal, law-abiding, rent-paying tenant. Remind them that by LAW they must manage their properties and that their own website says they are "individually accountable".
3. Legal avenues:
a) Issue the DoH with a Notice of Breach of Duty - (the Landlord 'has not allowed you quiet enjoyment of the property'.) Give them 14 days to respond. If they do not respond in a manner that satisfies you, apply to the Tribunal for a hearing.
b) If the problem is with "visitors" of the tenant (ie. they are not actually on the lease) then you can apply to the Local Court for an AVO (if violence or threats are involved - see point 1b) or a Noise Abatement Order to prevent the visitor attending the property.
c) Apply to the Tribunal for a Hearing under the Residential Tenancy Act (see footnote). It will cost $5 (in NSW) and you will have to provide good, comprehensive evidence so that's where point 1 comes into play.
You need to prove two things: One - that the anti-social behaviour of the neighbour breached your lease and two - that Housing did nothing about it.
4. Be prepared
a) Be prepared to be frustrated by Housing staff. They will fob you off with every excuse and every delaying tactic. They will lose papers and tapes and deny that you had meetings.
b) At the Tribunal, Be very prepared. Know your evidence and let that evidence speak for itself. If you lie you WILL be caught out and you can watch your case go down the gurgler.
c) Be prepared to be bullied by the Housing Legal Rep. Ask the Tribunal Member to allow you to have a Legal Rep or a Spokesperson or Advocate. The Tribunal Member is impartial and deserves respect. Try to stay emotionally detached and just answer the questions.
d) If you can, go along to the CTTT and sit in on a case or two to observe how it operates and how you should present your case.
a) Forget "writing to the Minister or your MP". They are useless and simply refer straight back to the same people who are ignoring the problems in the first place.
b) Don't listen to Housing staff when they tell you to call Police for anti-social behaviour. Most ASB is not criminal activity and the Police can't do anything. Leave calling the Police for when you really NEED them.
c) Don't abuse Housing staff. They will take your sleep-deprived desperation and your frustration and turn them against you. They will mark your file that you are the abusive party in the dispute.
d) Do NOT trust Housing to do their jobs. Expect them to ignore your complaints and act accordingly.
e) Don't be an idiot and leave it for two years like I did. 2 months is more than enough!
If you have a WIN, please come back and tell us about it or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Residential Tenancies Act 1987 No 26 Sect 22 Tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment
(1) It is a term of every residential tenancy agreement that:
(a) the tenant shall have quiet enjoyment of the residential premises without interruption by the landlord or any person claiming by, through or under the landlord or having superior title (for example, a head landlord) to that of the landlord, and
(b) the landlord or the landlord’s agent shall not interfere, or cause or permit any interference, with the reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of the tenant in using the residential premises.
(2) A landlord or a landlord’s agent under a residential tenancy agreement shall not, during the currency of the agreement, contravene or fail to comply with subsection (1).
Now amended to:
Residential Tenancies Act 2010 - Sect 50
(3) A landlord or landlord's agent must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the landlord's other neighbouring tenants do not interfere with the reasonable peace, comfort or privacy of the tenant in using the residential premises.