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.