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Thursday, March 17, 2011

How to make Housing accountable - the Basics

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:

I have a RIGHT to quiet enjoyment of my property.
The Landlord must take all reasonable steps TO ENSURE that my other neighbouring tenants do not interfere with my reasonable peace, comfort or privacy.



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.

5. Don'ts:
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 house@ourhouseswap.com.au



Footnotes
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.

28 comments:

  1. Most valuable information you have given here. I am on a disability pension and like so many others, not stupid, simply addled and drained and not know where to begin. Big thank you.

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  2. thankyou so much for all that information ,without people like you we wouldnt know what to do.Your coloumn is superb keep up the great work.

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  3. Your information is great, but after speaking to DOH at a meeting some months back, I asked do all tenants sign the same lease and if so why do some get special treatment?
    I was told, yes all DOH tenants sign the same lease, BUT there are 3 cat- agrees of people that are accepted by DOH
    First the one who are able to work they are accepted Last on the list.
    Second the ones who are in need of special help,(drug takers,mental ill, disable and so on),They go FIRST on the list.
    Third the disable who can work but need support, also people coming out of goal and so on.
    So if you are a poor hard working tax paying good person with no criminal record you go last on the list even if you have 8 children.
    That is the Government for you.
    Just through you would like to know that, I just sat at the meeting in disbelief and said so where is the sense in us all signing the same lease, if the special species/ferals (some of the above are I know not all ) have an unwritten law to them selves supported by our Government.Such as the mental health,out of goal support team and so on.
    I think the best lesson to learn is to never go into DOH

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    Replies
    1. I asked my local DOH person how many tenancies she handles. In excess of 300. I can understand why my phone calls are never returned, my requests for transfer are ignored. I'm not defending DOH poor attitude and lack of professionalism, just think the whole system is flawed. Is there any country in the world with a public housing system that works?

      My unit complex is probably 50 years old and so poorly designed it causes conflicts. I've lived in home unit blocks where I couldn't hear my neighbours unless they had loud parties. Here I can hear doors sliding open, food being chopped, washing machines operating. So imagine the din when my intellectually challenged neighbour plays her radio at full bore every minute she's home.

      For me the problem basically is that there is no umpire to keep anti-social behaviour in check. If each complex had a live-in manager who was responsible for general maintenance, chasing overdue rent, whatever, I think a lot of problems could be avoided.

      I just want to get out of public housing.

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    2. When one is disabled one doesn't necessarily have a choice to go in to public housing. Look at the young disabled individuals living in Nursing Homes with the elderly. Can you imagine what that would be like? I one can work it does open up opportunities and enables a higher earning capacity. Then one has a choice.

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  4. Your information has opened a window for me and I have the skills to apply your steps. Thank you. I could prove antisocial behaviour and breach of lease. I could prove that housing hasn't acted on the claim. I have always known I have the right to quiet enjoyment of my property.

    BUT..... WHAT DOES ONE DO IF, IN FIGHTING, ONES VERY LIFE IS THREATENED AS A RESULT.

    At a minimum there would be destruction to personal property as I have experienced. Sadly, and more importantly, I would have grave concerns for my physical wellbeing. In my case a wizbin set alight under a child's bedroom.

    I have lived in this 15 home complex for 14 years. We are a very caring and supportive small community We share our life path, our joys, our sorrows. Over time lovely friendships have grown.

    As well we have lived within a world of heroin dealers, violent criminals, drug addicts, thieves, people with anger management issues........shall I go on?

    What do you suggest? Perhaps the Law requires review to enable people to complain without threat nor fear. Now that would be freedom of speech.

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  5. I suggest you would do what people in private rental do... call the police.

    And yes I know that may just antagonise the situation further - but the alternative is to let the bullies win. I know which path I would take.

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  6. When I was a tenant elected representative on the Surrey Hills Neighbourhood Advisory board, to the Department of Housing New South Wales, back between 2000 to 05. I would also suggest to leave a paper trail, by making sure that any information you give them, is photocopied, stamped and signed, and that information is given back to you, that way they can never say they have lost the paper work.

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  7. Where I used to live in South Hobart, you would call the police, and housing over the anti sociable behavior all both played was blame games at each other. Your cars property was damaged. The police said to me they will not lay charges because the person was drunk. They changed their attitude once I complained to the state ombudsman office, who found the police were not doing their job.

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  8. To Jayblueaus. Good old Surry Hills office. Well try talking to them. Hitting a brick wall is what you get. One particular family, that's all. If they are in the mood for destruction of all kind, well bad luck for you.Client Service Officer won't do a thing. We are all going ten steps over his head.They are the most slack, unworthy office of the century, in particular one. The police, they just tell you to see Housing. I didn't know you can breach your tenancy several times by making people's lives hell.

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  9. Funny you say to be aware of the Legal rep. I found the guy form the legal department to be professional and no-nonsense compared to the people and the local housing office.

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  10. What do you do if you are living in a privately owned property next to a DOH residence? I have had many problems, and teh DOH will do nothing

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  11. Oh I really needed this information 2 yrs ago. But then karma got the better of my obnoxious neighbour - he dropped dead from a heart attack!

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  12. I have had anti social behaviour, drug dealers, foul language, threats of rape, violence, being bashed. Porn left on my back door step with notations to my body parts,storked for 2 years,purposely woken between 12 and 3am night after night for extendered time frames till i was suffering sleep deprevation,foul notes left on my front door.Because i have stood up for my self against the DOH when they were bulling me and creating a false debt fausley trying to extort mony from me by taking me to the tribunal to which they droped the case when i turned up with all my evidence to which i have got them off side. I have taken them to the Tribunal this time this is the 5th ajurnment again they are trying to extort extra mony from me again under a different title this time they called me and asked me to drop the case which i declined. Anyhow while i was waiting at the tribunal and they where acting all nice and sweet asking how things were going to which they already new i had on going probs to which i have an active transfer they asked me for a name i said if they say anything at all about this to the ofender i will be a target they assured me they wouldn't say a thing so i gave them the name a couple dayes later i got a brick through my window and was confronted by the offender at my front door at 3am accusing me of putting him in he told me Department of housing told him that i put him in. They purpossly put me in harms way, now i carnt trust them at all.They certainly have not showed a duty of care in my case. I have been on the transfer list for 1 year there has been 2 offers from the area i want to transfer to and my office have not noticfied me the reason i no is i phoned the office in the area i want to move to too see where i was on there list and the told me that i have already had 2 offers but my office has never pased it on to me.I have many support from Dr ect.I am still collecting evidence and i will take them to cort Bail Boshev Lawyers when the time is right.

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  13. EXACTLY- I agree 100 percent
    housing cannot be trusted and will do everything to make it difficult to move.
    They did the exact same thing to me ( creating a false debt) because you cannot transfer with a debt from housing over your head " its policy" but yet I wonder how many people get transfered with a debt... especially the bad tenants...I find it hard to believe that they always pay their rent when they obviously cant obeyrule.
    the media has started taking action against this now too.
    channel 7 and channel 9 ( today tonight and a current affair) both did a story on a young family being terrorised by anti social tenants. I would have to say that ACA's story was more accurate but they havnt put their story on the website unfortunetly.

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  14. I am trying to find the form referred to where you say "Issue the DoH with a Notice of Breach of Duty. I can find a Victorian form but not NSW - or will I adapt it. I am trying to assist some DoH NSW tenants who have not got anywhere with being heard by DoH over many years re a feral tenant. Thanks heaps.

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  15. I have never come across any housing worker or staff member whom was sincere in any way over the last forty years or so. They can make so much trouble for you when you speak your concerns too them...

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  16. I requested transfer papers 2 weeks before I was due to give birth to my 4th child so I could fill them in and hand them in as soon as I was out of hospital. The woman I spoke to said to me that I was not entitled to the papers because I "could not ensure that [I] would have a live birth". needless to say I nearly fell off the chair while I was sitting in the office, however I did not loose my $hi7 this time, came back 3 days later with baby in arms and again requested the transfer papers (this time with success). 12 months later I went into the office again to find out how our transfer request was progressing because I was concerned about my 4 year old sleeping on a top bunk especially as he is a VERY poor sleeper, has a mild form of autism and is a chronic sleep walker. I would not put a 2 1/2 year old a top bunk or a 1 year old, but there is no where else to put a bed because of the size of the rooms. when I voiced my concerns about how dangerous it was the the potential consequences I was facing, I was told (by the same woman as the year before):" put a mattress on the floor in his sisters room, his bedroom, your bedroom or the lounge-room and if the worst did happen, you would not qualify for a transfer and would need to notify DoH immediately so they could withdraw the transfer application." talk about sensitivity. At this point I DID loose my $hi7 at the woman on the other side of the counter. I did record the conversation on a hand held dictator which I put on the desk in front of me and I did tell the woman what it was, however when I asked to see a manager so I could make a complaint about the way I was spoken to, they refused to even listen to the recording because they said it breached confidentiality and I did not inform her that our conversation was being recorded (I was going on implied consent, as she did acknowledge that it was there and turned on). Since then our rent payments have 'gone missing' or not received, all requests for property maintenance has been declined or the bill has been sent to us (things like the gas stove leaking from the gas connection on the floor). With the info you have provided I will be kindly letting them know that their behaviour if far from acceptable and I will be taking matters further. I finish my uni degree in 18 months, so as soon as I obtain employment I will be leaving housing but not backing down from the fight.

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  17. I am sorry but it annoys me when some people keep popping out children and then demand a bigger house - if the size of the house bothers you then stop having babies? sorry if that sounds rude I just do not understand it as I chose to stop and I don't know why others don't too??
    I would give anything to have a normal, healthy family and would be happy for them to continue sharing rooms - the kids that is-that honestly would be the least of my concerns - as long as my family was together and safe!!
    How would you like my case? Been assaulted by the Muslims next door, 4 adult males against 1 single mum with disabled kids. Abused over and over so badly 1 of my children is too terrified to come home, is now homeschooled because of his anxiety and fears. Applied for transfer because of the violence, family breakdown and my health,I had a stroke because of the stress and now have a seriously ill mother to look after. Almost 2 years waiting on priority so far and when I asked them if Mum could come with me as I will be her carer too and in turn she will give up her house, they said yep she can but no extra bedroom, she can share your room, or put her in the dining room or lounge room as some people do.
    I give up. I look around and see some people get housing with little english and they continue having kids and have boats and flash cars and the like and I see others on the street, desperate for a roof over their heads. Sorry its just not fair!!!

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  18. I have had bad neighbours who have breached my safety and right to a peaceful environment for the past 6 years. I have complained, writtened and spoken to DOH complaints which at one stage I use to hand in over the counter but one of my letters got stolen from a drugy friend of the noisy tenant. I now post everything to a particular person. They have dealt with it but the tenant is still in the property next door and still threatening, and breaching my safety. I have every letter I have written over the past 12 months. I am now looking into taking it back to the Obudsman, which I did in the first place but they referred it to the DOH Tribunal who assured me that things were being done. Well obviously not to full extent and satisfaction. I will not go back to the tribunal this time but straight to the Obudsman to deal with this.

    Thank you for the information on how to make Housing accountable. It will be very useful.

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  19. I went to the tribunal to make housing accountable for my nightmare neighbours. Their response was that I am to blame also and that they will bring the neighours to the formal hearing as witnesses. I cannot get assistance from tenants advice and advocacy service as it is between two housing nsw tenants. housing are now hostile towards me and act as if i am the problem. i have applied for an avo but havent been to court yet. i am now suppose to sit there in the same room as these bullies one of whom has threatened that I am going to get a punch in the head. what am i suppose to do? it continues to get worse.

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  20. I am in a wheelchair and being threatened with physical violence by another tenant who has her boyfriend and a drug dealer living with her in a three bedroom villa. These last two are not on the tenancy and don't pay rent to Housing.
    The police are sick of coming around here as the tenant makes sure there are no witnesses to her threats of violence.
    Your advice of recording each incident is very much appreciated and I shall get a tape recorder tomorrow. Maybe then action will be taken.
    Resident's took up a petition to have them removed but Housing said "We don't take petitions any more!"
    I have reached the end of my patience with the system that is supposed to protect us.
    With your valuable information I at least can now begin to get some action. I shall pass this information on to other resident's so they too can begin their own action in getting this situation acted upon.
    God Bless You.

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  21. Having lived in a problematic block of units for 7 years, we have been through a wide variety of problems, from abuse to death threats,violations of lease agreements, you name it we've had it.After hounding the housing dept with letters,media etc we got results, it took time at least 12 months because we had to prove that the tenants concerned were actually misbehaving, we were the one's actually being called to question and we had done nothing wrong, just abided by our lease agreement. We had an incident in October 2013 after 5 months of the standard letter being sent out, i sent them a breach, low and behold, problem sorted out in a week.You cannot even get to have a meeting with any of the staff, they are holed up behind the reception area, like they are so special, how can issues get resolved if you have no access to the Manager supposedly looking after a block of units, This system needs to be changed and some integrity brought back to the Housing Dept, and to stop treating everyone as if they were tarred with the same brush. Yas

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  22. my problem is loud abusive neighbors who constantly threaten me and my daughter. A written complaint to housing and countless calls to police have done nothing...at 1.30 one morning the female occupant attacked me at my front door and now i am going to court for assault as i pushed her away....and i am going to be evicted by housing...i dont know where to to turn to next..

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  23. After reading everyone's encounters with neighbours who display anti social behaviour, it's extraordinary that DOH doesn't have any clear policies and procedures for residents who need help with tenants who consistently break the lease by abusing their neighbours. What does it take to have an aggressive anti social type moved out of the area? I have a neighbour who has had 2 shootings, numerous domestic violence incidents, pushing an elderly neighbour up the stairs, a violent home invasion and that's just a few things that have happened .....and he's still there! At the time, there was a community meeting about this person with the State Member, the local Police Superintendant and DOH all attending,! He was given an eviction notice...but he's still there! Now, another DOH tenant has become unbearable to live near. Five women who live in the same block, have been continually screamed at and harrassed whenever there's any sightings by her. She hasn't the ability to control herself and so this anger just explodes. She's unpredictable and since she's lived here, has already broken a neighbours arm with a cricket bat! She's still here! Since earlier this year she's been threatening to destroy property and HAS destroyed property of neighbours. She's cunning and she knows all about witnesses and will lie. I should be allowed to walk my dog around the block in peace.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Sylvia, I really empathise with you and your neighbours. I have a similar neighbour who I have a current PVO(Personal violence order) out on and DHse are evil in their disregard. They could house him outside the complex in special needs housing, but don't want to be bothered. 3 of my neighbours are in the 80's & subject to his abuse, he is 20yrs younger than them & was transferred here for similar behaviour. Housing should be sued for inflicting him on these older people and I'm a senior woman. Regards, Eilis(Irish for Elizabeth)

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  24. My neighbour has had 4 previous AVOs (actually PVOs if not residing with or family) from other neighbours and I have a current PVO against him. He has eviction notice but had himself deemed with mental illness & DH don't want to be seen to make him homeless, a wannabe houso underbelly star, he is inflicted back on us neighbours and he continues his destructive activities and laughs about it with his sadistic cohort neighbours who have vested interest in supporting him, i.e., he is their drug source.

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  25. I have taken NSW Housing to what is now NCAT twice successfully in respect of tenants that were abusing everyone on the estate, with the department lying and trying on delaying tactics at every step. They will do EVERYTHING to try and get the matter safely back into their hands so they can sweep it under the carpet. They key is persistence and to keep it in the tribunal, forget that they are any kind of ally and treat them as your worst enemy - because their legal people are. The trick as I see it is to make it about them and their incompetence, get the names of staff into the frame and they will run a mile.

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