Tuesday, November 20, 2018

CALL TO ACTION - Shoalhaven tenants being shunted into Community housing

One delightful way Public Housing implements to solve their problems is to buck-pass them to someone else.
This transfer of stock from Public Housing to Community Housing has been ramped up recently with dire consequences for tenants and in many cases, complete loss of housing security.

The latest community to fall under the hammer has been in the Shoalhaven where their tenancies have been handed over to Southern Cross Housing.

Do you understand what that means?
Have you been told one thing but the reality is very different?
Do you know how that will affect your ability to SWAP when your circumstances change?

Michael Darcy from the NSW Tenant's Union would like to hear from YOU!

Michael is putting together a report about this practice of transferring leases to the non-government sector and would like to hear your experiences - the good, the bad and the ugly.

Please read the info below and contact Michael direct.

Are you one of the thousands of tenants in New South Wales whose lease is being transferred to a community housing landlord?
Along with many regions of NSW, management of all the public housing dwellings in the Shoalhaven has been transferred to a non-government, not-for-profit housing provider. In the Shoalhaven this is Southern Cross Housing. If you are included in this you are likely to have already received lots of information about the transfer of your rental agreement to the new landlord, and about how this will affect your rent and your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.
If you are confused or worried about any aspect of the transfer or the way that Southern Cross will manage your tenancy, then you will need a well-informed and independent source of advice and support. The Tenants’ Union of NSW (TUNSW) is the peak non-government organisation advocating for the interests of tenants and other renters in New South Wales since 1976, and works closely with Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Services around the State.  TUNSW is closely following the social housing transfers so that we can promote ‘best practice’ by community housing managers and protect tenants’ rights and interests if problems arise.
FACS Housing and Southern Cross have both committed to new arrangements affecting important things such as how your rent is calculated; maintenance of your dwelling; the effect of policies on things such as spare bedrooms, pets and absences; and how complaints and disputes are managed.
In most cases you should notice little or no change, and your current rental agreement will continue to apply. However, if you have a fixed term agreement then when it expires you will be asked to sign a new agreement where some different conditions or policies may be applied.
Rent, maintenance and other conditions
Initially you should not see any changes to your income after rent and water charges when your tenancy is transferred. Southern Cross should calculate your rent in the same way as FACS Housing, except for one key difference. You will need to apply to Centrelink for Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) when your tenancy is transferred. If eligible, you will need to pay the full amount of any CRA you receive as part of your rent. Initially your rental subsidy should be calculated to ensure that your net income (after rent is paid) remains the same. If you are currently required to pay a vacant bedroom charge you will continue to have to pay this.
However, if and when
§  your income or circumstances change
§  an automatic subsidy review is conducted
§  your current agreement ends and you sign a new lease,
Southern Cross Housing will be able to apply their policies for calculating rent and water charges, which may result in a small change to the amount you pay.
Southern Cross Housing should by now have let you know of the appropriate way to report and follow up on any repairs and maintenance issues.
If you have a pet that was allowed under your current agreement you should continue to be allowed to have that pet after the transfer.
Lease changes
While you are on your current agreement, Southern Cross Housing has agreed to be bound by your current terms. At the end of your fixed term, (or at any time if you have a continuing agreement) Southern Cross Housing may ask you to sign a new agreement which may include new terms and conditions. If you are asked to sign a new agreement you should ask them to specify clearly any changes from your current agreement and seek legal advice about any changes you are uncomfortable with.
Complaints and dispute resolution
All community housing providers are required to have an internal appeal policy and procedure, and information about this should be made publicly available and easily accessible for tenants. If you are unhappy with a decision relating to policy (for example around rent calculation) you can appeal the decision through Southern Cross Housing’s complaints or appeal procedures. If you are unhappy with the outcome you can then appeal this decision to the Housing Appeals Committee (HAC). The Housing Appeals Committee is an independent agency who can review decisions of social housing providers for tenants. See for more information.
Following the transfer, you will continue to be covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 and are able to make an application to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal if you are unable to resolve a dispute.  For help with appeals and before you lodge an application to the tribunal you should seek advice from Illawarra and South Coast Tenants Service (see below) at the Illawarra Legal Centre.
Tell us your story
TUNSW will be monitoring any reports of tenants’ issues with the transfer to Southern Cross Housing through Illawarra and South Coast Tenants Service, but we would also like to hear directly from you.
If you have any views or experiences, either positive or negative, concerning your change of landlord then you can help us to improve the policies and practices of FACS Housing and community housing providers across NSW by sharing your story with us. This can be done by phone or email, or by participating in a small group discussion that we can organise in your local area.  Anything you tell us about your transfer experience will be kept entirely confidential unless you give permission for us to share it.
If you can help with this project and would like to contribute your views please contact:
Michael Darcy, Social Housing Transfers Project Officer
Phone: 02 8117 3720    Mobile: 0414 909 013        

For specific tenancy advice relating your rent or other charges, or unresolved disputes call Illawarra and South Coast Tenants Service on 1800 807 225

Saturday, September 1, 2018


Much has been written about the incompetence of Housing staff - mostly anecdotal and credible. It is rare that there is solid evidence and rarer still that Housing is held to account.

This article from Tenants NSW crossed my desk recently and, on the surface, it looks like just another drawn-out maintenance issue with buck-passing and inept handling, but when you dig a little deeper you can see that a 14 YEAR fight with Housing is more than just a floundering, useless, bumbling bureaucracy.

One line stood out - screaming from the rooftops:
“There can be no basis for describing the long-standing and continuing breaches by the respondent [FACS - LAHC] of the several orders of this Tribunal as casual, accidental or unintentional.”

What does that mean exactly?
It reinforces what every tenant knows - that Housing staff act with malice.

That staff choose to ignore Tribunal rulings; choose to ignore policy and law; choose to leave vulnerable people in danger and nothing will make them behave otherwise.

This behaviour is supported at every level of Housing - a practice which is fostered and encouraged.

And even though the FACS secretary wrote an apology letter, nothing on the ground has changed.

This is just ONE case where the tenant had the strength, the mental fortitude and tenacity to follow this through the courts for 14 YEARS and Housing were caught with their pants down.

This is not the norm. The norm is a Housing philosophy of harassment, badgering, ignoring, gaslighting ... where the tenant is worn to a frazzle and gives up. They either give up and live in squalor with mould or broken windows or busted security doors; or they give up and move out because the cost of having secure housing is too high.

Monday, July 18, 2016

What is reasonable?

One of the terms used often in legal language is "reasonable".

What would a reasonable person think.
How much is reasonable force.
How does a reasonable person behave.

But what happens when you are faced with a person who does not apply "reason" to a situation. Expectations are not met and frustration is incurred. In most cases, ie. relationships, you can have a big blow-up, argue it out and then get over it.

However, when faced with a bureaucrat who applies rules without compassion; who has no vested interest in the outcome; who is power hungry and using your situation to advance their career, things can turn nasty very quickly.

Several stories have emerged lately from Housing tenants who have been forced into disastrous situations by uncaring CSOs and Team Leaders. These tales range from the mildly stupid to the outright corrupt and vindictive.

Take the CSO who rocked up at a tenant's doorstep, interviewed the "boyfriend" who was visiting and then reported it incorrectly on the neighbours file as an Unauthorised Occupant. The neighbour was vigorously investigated and the CSO would not admit their mistake.

Or the CSO who failed to answer 12 emails over a period of 8 weeks - each asking the same question: "what further paperwork do you need?" The tenant zealously sought an answer but there was total silence from Housing. Two months later the tenant received an eviction notice for failing to provide paperwork. The tenant's file was marked with the comment "harassing Housing staff with emails..."

And what about the vindictive Team Leader - when reported for misconduct, set out on a path of retaliation, spending hours (and countless $$) digging up tidbits of gossip in a cruel and relentless pursuit of the accuser.

As more and more Housing tenants are drawn from the pool of desperation, with language barriers, mental illness and high-needs roadblocks; tenant's rights are eroded and the power of those behind the desk increases, placing vulnerable clients at the mercy of callous staff.

Is it reasonable to expect Housing staff to act with an ounce of humanity?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Code of Ethical Conduct

All NSW public servants, and in particular those who work directly with the public like Housing or DoCS workers, are governed by a beautifully written document titled Code of Ethical Conduct.

It is 29 pages long the core principles are Integrity, Trust, Service and Accountability.
[Okay, stop laughing now]
You can just tell that it took a back room team a year to write it and then an additional year to have it peer reviewed and then many more months to get the legal language correct. All this so that it can sit in the public servant's bottom drawer and be ignored.

And what happens if they breach it?
Well, they get investigated. Not by an independent team or an outside body - they get to investigate themselves. I wonder how often they find themselves guilty? 

So next time you are heading down to the Housing office, print out the list below and score when they comply with the code. Offer the staff member a report card or better still - offer to send their report card to their Team Leader. 

• Consider people equally without prejudice or favour 
• Act professionally with honesty, consistency and impartiality 
• Take responsibility for situations, showing leadership and courage 
• Place public interest over personal interest. 

• Appreciate difference and welcome learning from others 
• Build relationships based on mutual respect 
• Uphold the law, institutions of government and democratic principles 
• Communicate intentions clearly and invite teamwork and collaboration 
• Provide apolitical and non-partisan advice. 

• Provide services fairly with a focus on client needs 
• Be flexible, innovative and reliable in service delivery 
• Engage with the not-for-profit and business sectors to develop and implement service solutions 
• Focus on quality while maximising service delivery. 

• Recruit and promote staff on merit 
• Take responsibility for decisions and actions 
• Provide transparency to enable public scrutiny 
• Observe standards for safety 
• Be fiscally responsible and focus on efficient, effective and prudent use of resources.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Rotten eggs float

Have you ever sat across from a Housing staff member in an interview or at the counter and wondered... how the hell does this person manage to get away with being so incompetent?
Like most bureaucrats, the more inept the person – the higher they rise to the top.

It happens like this: the supervisor or team leader is desperate to get rid of the incompetent staff member so they write a glowing reference and initiate a transfer to another section. The new section realises they have been duped and promotes the incompetent person to a higher level. As there are no positions available in that department at the higher level, this method is used as a means of transferring them elsewhere.
Thus, with little effort and no oversight, the most bumbling, facile fool is now in charge of the office.
Drunk on their own vaulted rise to the top, their sense of self-importance is inflated and their ineptitude flows through the entire staff.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Swapping Community Housing to HNSW

When Housing NSW handed over large swathes of its stock to various Community Housing operators - one of the unforeseen disadvantages was the upset caused when trying to do a Mutual Exchange.

Anecdotal reports say that some have been successful, whilst others have been blocked. It seems that it depends on the mood of the officials involved and that there is no hard and fast policy to follow.

The officials with a sense of compassion and an ounce of common sense can see how it is ALWAYS beneficial to all parties when they find a suitable property to swap.

This is the latest missive to land in my inbox:
I am renting through Community Housing, i had no choice but to take this place because it was my second choice and you can't turn down your second choice (An unnecessary rule i think). I need to go back to the area i was in because my daughter goes to school there and i work there. I am wasting a lot of petrol going back and forth and my car doesn't have much life left. No buses leave early enough for me to get to work on time so i would lose my job if my car dies. I recently found a lady i can swap with,she is in the area i want and she wants to swap! Because she is with Housing NSW they won't let her swap with Community Housing. Who made up this ridiculous rule? I would love to hear from others if they have done a mutual exchange from Community Housing to Housing NSW? And if anyone was allowed to go from a 2 bedroom to a 3 bedroom with only 2 people?

Can anybody add to this discussion? Have you been successful with a Community to HNSW swap?
Have you been blocked by short-sighted bureaucrats?

Please comment below but remember, no names of tenants or staff.

If you'd like to be more involved with this issue, please send an email with contact details and a brief story of your situation to

Monday, June 29, 2015

Tenant wins against HOUSING

With all the publicity lately about Queensland Housing failing to address anti-social behaviour problems, I have been flooded with emails asking where the CTTT story is.
It's in the archives - and Blogger doesn't make it easy to navigate.
So here are the relevant articles:

Where it all began - August 2009
The damage Ferals do to our community
Making Housing accountable

Happy reading.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Worthy - not just Needy

As the Ferals increasing take over public housing and as the public servants stand by and watch the communities spiral into ghettos, we ask what can be done to properly MANAGE public housing and their occupants.

I can hear the bleeding hearts now - "but the Ferals will be homeless if we evict them". Well so be it. Perhaps that is exactly what is needed - a stint of homelessness - to make them appreciate what the State has provided for them. Why don't we round up the existing Homeless and swap them with the Ferals. I'll bet the Homeless will be so grateful for a roof that, given the opportunity, they'll become model tenants. If they genuinely believed that bad behaviour would leave them back on the streets, then behold a transformation.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Termites in Housing

I have just finished reading the 42 page "summary" of the Auditor General's report on HNSW.
There was nothing surprising in it.
Too few houses plus too many people... no brainer that one!
Stock depletion and maintenance deficit... yep, situation normal.
Under-occupancy got quite a run - with very few practical solutions.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Monday, February 11th, 2013
By Ross Smith, for the
Rimfire Review
The announcement of a granting of amnesty to a small number of public housing tenants announced on Sunday 20th January 2013 marks a misguided day in the history of the administration of public housing in NSW.

Monday, December 17, 2012


By Garry Mallard, for the Rimfire Review

During the National Tenant Support Network’s 17 years of operation, I have successfully resisted the urge to use its reach to express personal outrage. That is about to change….oh, how it is about to change!
Upon returning from a brief trip to Sydney last Friday, I found in my letterbox, the Housing NSW Christmas greeting for 2012, attached for your information. It takes the form of an A4 sheet of paper bearing the Family & Community Services – Housing NSW logo, beneath which there appears a short message in blue, red and green; the traditional colours of Christmas.


By Ross Smith, for the Rimfire Review

The regular reminder that Christmas is imminent for NSW’s Public Housing tenants has arrived in their letterboxes as per ordained schedule, courtesy of their landlord. It takes the now standard form of dire threats of eviction if the rent is not paid on time and solicits payments in advance of the legislated timeframe.
This year Housing NSW has added a new tone to the Christmas message.

Friday, August 10, 2012

United we stand

There are many many comments on this blog about "banding together" and fighting "class actions".

Great ideas but as we all know, the time it takes to implement such processes and run them consistently with dedication, is often a burden upon one or two people.

To help spread the load and to address different concerns in the different states, three groups have set up on Facebook:

Friends of Public Housing Victoria

Friends of Public Housing NSW

Friends of Public Housing Queensland

Support them and learn from them and together we can attempt to change Public Housing in Australia.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Queensland - Call to Arms

Further to our story Something smelly in Queensland  the case is going to court

From Helen Wedlake:
In a test case to reverse a common practice of putting the tenant at fault in disputes concerning the condition of housing, there is a Court Hearing on 29th March, 2012, in Court of Appeal, Supreme Court George Street Brisbane pertaining to the Matter of Underwood v Dept. of Communities. It is in the public interest and a matter of belief that all Landlords whether private or public have a duty of care towards their tenants. The premise for an Appeal to the Supreme Court relates to judgment in QCAT tenancy tribunal that did not consider that a structurally defective unit subjected to repeated inflows of storm-water mixed with raw sewerage should have an abatement of rent.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Case Study: Something smelly in Queensland

This is an Open Letter sent to OHS and reprinted with permission.

I am ... taking this opportunity to share with you Helen Underwood's circumstances and Helen's
sustained fight for answers to her placements in housing that was unfit or barely fit for habitation, conditions by no means an exception in the system.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Evictions increase under 3-strikes

Further to our story last year about the WA policy of evictions...
This story appeared in the The West online newspaper
The Department of Housing has almost doubled the number of evictions of public housing tenants under its three-strikes policy in the past 13 months.
An explosion at a clandestine drug laboratory in a suburban home in March prompted Housing Minister Troy Buswell to harden the rules.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Just a little dash of common sense will fix it...

A few facts...

Only a very small percentage of Public Housing dwellings are 1 bedroom units.
Consequently, there is a HUGE percentage of 2 bedroom dwellings being occupied by single people.

Fact 2: It is NOT EASY to find a swap. Even with the super efficient Our House Swap website it can still be hard to find something that suits your needs.

Fact 3: It is virtually IMPOSSIBLE to get a transfer through the official channels - the average wait being 2 years.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

HNSW breaches tenant's privacy

How broken is the official Housing NSW Mutual Exchange system?

It's hard to tell because it's virtually impossible to get a straight answer from HNSW.

Apart from having to wait nearly two years to get a response, the official Mutual Exchange system requires the tenant to forgo all privacy in order to participate in the program.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Revealing preliminary results from tenant survey

MORE than 72 per cent of public tenants currently affected by anti- social behaviour have not had their problem resolved or addressed appropriately by State housing departments, according to the OHSBlog survey.

A massive 65 per cent found Housing staff to be "unhelpful and disinterested", and most had been putting up with noisy neighbours for more than two years.

Anti-social behaviour, maintenance and mutual exchange are three of the bigger issues affecting tenants in public housing across Australia. As each sector of Housing is run by the State government, tenants in each state experience a different level of ineptitude from their "landlord".

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Indigenous housing group backs eviction laws

From ABC
The Goldfields Indigenous Housing Organisation has welcomed new legislation proposed by the Western Australian Government to address unsuitable behaviour in public housing.

The legislation would allow the Department of Housing to call on the magistrates court to evict disruptive tenants.

Goldfields Indigenous Housing Organisation CEO Julia Shadlow-Bath says the new laws will give authorities more power to deal with troublesome tenants.

"We can issue you with breach notices and those breach notices could escalate to the point of an eviction notice," she said.