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.

The circumstances were such that Chermside Housing, on notification of a serious toxic risk, failed to remove the tenant to emergency accommodation. They failed to rectify the problem of utilities but as a counter approach to a problem they instigated eviction notices to Helen, repeatedly taking her to the Tenancy Tribunal QCAT. They failed again, in their actions to make her homeless. Sustained bullying and abuse metered out by Chermside Housing became so intense, continuous and relentless that Helen can only liken the mental and emotional anguish to 'clean' torture ie there are no visible scars however the post traumatic stress from the ordeal, of more that two years, continues. She has become one of the new breed of disabled, stigmatized persons affected by the Public Housing system of 'get em in' and 'force them out'. How is it fair that the Court Judge would rule that 'the applicant was in receipt of subsidized housing' and for this reason, there is no entitlement to an abatement of rent"?(are they to be judged differently to private tenants?). To the applicant and to all public housing tenants this effectively implies 'that living in public/social housing exempts you from the entitlement or expectation that your dwelling will be fit for habitation or can be fixed and maintained. Does affordable housing come with the 'lean' that they are to be victims of charity? Due to desperation must they be forced to decide whether or not he or she can accept living in conditions that put their safety, health and well being at risk and risk of sustained abusive behaviours? If the most used option to difficulties is threat of homelessness how long would the Chermside Housing Department expect a fearful and disabled tenant to sustain rental in untenantable conditions?


  1. Judgment was reserved - this make take two or three months before there is a decision.

    Watch this Space

  2. I live in NSW, otherwise I would have been there as a show of support. Helen, please let us all know when there is a judgement, and God bless you!

  3. thank god for people like you helen if enough of us support the good tenants we just might make a break through. Please keep posted God Bless You.

  4. Helen, I have never had the inclination to sit on my haunches, saying "Good on you" to someone in your predicament. I just hope you have the stamina and active support you need to overcome this. I just saw an article about handicapped people not being allowed to public shows in Russia because it would make the public unhappy (!), it is being taken up by Human Rights. If there is one thing we (everyone) in public housing should become well versed with is Human Rights. There is a Human Rights commission and information on the net. We need to know.

  5. The housing dept have a duty & an agreement to keep the Peace & Comfort of all tenants. They also have a duty when maintainance is required. If it is plumming problems they must treat it as a priority. All the best to you Helen. We must always stick up for our rights & never loose faith.

  6. ppl fight for your right,doh is very corrupt.

  7. Helen all the best to you.
    Perhaps you should contact the Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman? He is a people's person and he announced on ABC news 26/06/12- anyone with an issue relating to a front-line service in Queensland Government should contact him; he added, even by email. I would love to support you in any way I can. I too have been bullied by the DOH and they are not familiar with current legislation.
    I work my guts out at university and seek to open a legal clinic for DOH people and aged pensioners. Never give up!
    People do care.

  8. I recently was granted housing , not a little after the drains blocked , they sent me a bill for 700 dollars , I watched the technician plumber find the problem , it was damage from the piers being replaced before I got there .

    I had to go to all kinds of trouble to clear thet debt by digging it up and photographing the evidence .

    Seems the contractors private or govt are more than willing to say it the tennants fault as they report back to the dept , maybe its for payment reasons ..but the one thing I am sure of is people who are being billed are being made responsible for the fault that goes without saying and in many cases it is not their doing as in my case .

    If I wasn't a technician myself I would have paid it off just to keep the wolves from the door .

    That works ....when it comes to recovering money.

  9. An update - Apologies for length of time - The Supreme Court 15 June 2012 basically decided 2 to 1 that the amount of money involved was insignificant to decide the proper interpretation of s 94 of RTRA Act; proper exercise of discretion; legality of discretionary factors; legislature's intention 'a consideration completely unrelated to any factor identified permitting the exercise of the discretion (subsidized rental); beyond scope and purpose of section; Tribunal not required to have/adopt proper practices and/or procedures enabling reception of further evidence on appeal' - all of these factors are of public importance to all tenants in Qld and all Australia, particularly with identical legislation. Section 94 of RTRA Act does not exclude the 'State'.
    This was appealed to High Court - Special Leave was not granted and dismissed on 15 December 2012 with reasons only opinions (allowed under rules of Hight Court) however they restated the facts incorrectly with 'subsidized rental' now becoming 'concessional rental'
    I found a case giving authority for a re-opening - the summons has been accepted and I filed an outline of Arguments supporting the re-opening yesterday 28 March 2013 - showing 'Rent' is 'rent or 'Rent payable - under a contract i.e. the lease agreement i.e. is neither a 'concessional rent' nor a subsidized rent' defining 'concessional' and 'subsidized' - also setting out the respondent's core business is renting public housing to tenants in receipt of 'Centrelink welfare payments' at 25% of income - I will let you know the outcome.


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