Healthy homes, water restrictions, social housing stories, electricity, 'protected tenants' and more.
View this email in your browser
The Tenants' Union of NSW is proud to have published Tenant News for over 40 years – originally as a printed magazine, now as an email newsletter. Check out the archive here.

Decent homes – a right for all

Our homes are a foundation for everything else we do in our lives. So it's vital that our homes provide healthy, safe environments. Unfortunately, for many renters our homes do not meet our needs – as shown in recent research by City Futures and Shelter NSW, in which the Tenants' Union participated. See the summary article here: Chilly house? Mouldy rooms? Here's how to improve low-income renters’ access to decent housing.
Low-income renters’ access to decent housing
One of the key activities of the Tenants' Union is advocating to ensure our homes meet a minimum standard. We are part of the Community Coalition for Healthy, Affordable Homes – working to raise the standards of rental housing at both federal and state levels. Recently we were on morning TV talking mouldy homes and in the media about poorly constructed apartment blocks Opal and Mascot Towers. We also speak to experts like the Housing Theory Symposium, where we argued homes should be an essential service.

There are some signs all this effort is creating change – slowly! The NSW Government last year passed rules which will clarify some elements of minimum standards – including that properties should be structurally sound, not have significant dampness, and have adequate ventilation. These changes will come into effect in the coming months, but there is more work to do. These minimum standards do not specifically address homes that are draughty, poorly insulated, or other issues that cause real harm to tenants and waste energy. We will continue to push for these standards, both through government processes and legal advocacy networks.

Water restrictions, drought and bond

With NSW experiencing one of the most severe droughts on record, and water restrictions in many areas, there have been instances of tenants being asked to pay for replacement turf and lawn work.

If you've been asked to pay for grass that probably would have died anyway, is this fair? Where do you stand? Tenants' Union Principal Legal Officer Grant Arbuthnot offers some thoughts in his Q+A column.
Water restrictions, drought & rental bond

Social housing stories and resources

Journey to social housing

If you haven’t yet come across the multimedia art project Journey to Social Housing, it's definitely worth a look. On the project website community housing tenants from across Penrith, Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains share their lives and housing journey through films, audio stories and photos.

Barry (pictured above, left): “My maths teacher put this thing on the board and I couldn’t do it because when I was a kid I was put up the back of the classroom, cos you weren’t considered a citizen then.”

Sky (pictured above, centre): “I never thought I would ever need social housing. My whole life changed – it could happen to anyone.”

Christina (pictured above, right): “And then to my surprise was the kind of people that were in community housing, they were really nice people and I developed a big nice friendship.”

The project was facilitated by Wentworth Housing in partnership with Curiousworks.

Journey to social housing

Guide to public housing rental bonds

Tenants whose homes are managed by FACS Housing may be asked to pay a rental bond. The rules around this bond are different to bonds in the private market. The Tenants' Union has prepared a new information sheet covering the key aspects of the public housing rental bond scheme; what to do if you accidentally cause damage; if you are asked to pay rental bond and/or pay for damage to property; appealing a FACS decision; and getting your bond back at the end of your tenancy.

Rental bonds in public housing infosheet

Social housing landlords are evicting DV victim-survivors

A report released last month by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute shows that social housing landlords are evicting low-income domestic violence survivors because the abuse they suffer can be considered a 'nuisance' breach under existing tenancy laws.
This report relied heavily on the work of the Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Services. It should be obvious that victim-survivors should not be punished for the perpetrator's actions. And eviction should never be sought lightly. Government needs to ensure support services are available and able to work effectively.
DV evictions – read more

Repair Kit updated

The Repair Kit: Getting FACS Housing to repair your home is a great resource produced by Inner Sydney Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service at Redfern Legal Centre. Now updated!

The Repair Kit updated

Electricity in land lease communities

Next week, the Tenants Union is in the Tribunal representing 93 home owners from a residential land lease community. Collectively, our clients are seeking a refund of $126,000 for electricity overcharging.

The case concerns electricity charges payable by the home owner to the operator as an on-seller of electricity within their embedded network.

In January 2019, the Tribunal decided in favour of a home owner in a similar situation, and ordered the operator to refund the home owner the sum of $766 that was overcharged.
Mary Preston (pictured) is one of the home owners in this case. She says she feels misled by the operator. The operator in that community put up a notice in October 2018 advising there was 'no need for home owners to lodge individual applications to the Tribunal.' The operator has failed to offer any of the home owners a refund.
Paul Smyth (left) is the Tenants’ Union Residential Parks Solicitor, and Ian Finlayson (right) is the Chairperson of the residents committee. Ian has spent countless hours (paid only in coffee!) preparing the refund calculation spreadsheets.

Stay tuned for more detail, and subscribe (or update/check your preferences) to Outasite Lite – our land lease community newsletter.

Changes to the law for 'protected tenants'

Not many people know we still have rent control in NSW. They are called 'protected tenancies' and on 1 July 2019, the law regarding these tenancies changed. They were previously covered under the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act 1948this act has now been repealed. Protected tenants are now covered under Schedule 2 ('Savings Provisions' Part 7 ('Provisions consequent on enactment of Fair Trading Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous) Act 2018')) of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010.

No-one knows how many protected tenancies remain, but in 2019 their number is small – we would estimate 200-300 in New South Wales.

'Protected tenant' is a colloquial term for a tenant who (i) lives in 'prescribed premises', as defined under 'Definitions' in the new Schedule and (ii) still enjoys the full provisions of the repealed Act. A 'statutory protected tenant' is a colloquial term for a person who has 'like-rights' to a protected tenant, usually a surviving spouse or child.
Read more – changes for 'protected tenants'
The Tenants’ Union has also produced a new information sheet which tells you everything you need to know about ‘protected tenants’.
Protected tenants info sheet

Millers Point, a sad day

On Friday last week, it was reported that the the iconic Sirius building has been sold for $150 million. This is a sad end to a historic symbol of Sydney and a loss to our community. $150 million is less than a week's worth of what the government collects in stamp duty. The sale of Sirius brings the total sales from Miller's Point and the Rocks to $750 million, though this figure does not account for the costs of selling the property, including agent's commissions, security, relocations and more. It also doesn't include the bonus stamp duty the government has received – around $43 million.

Selling existing housing, especially where it is still relatively recently built, isn't the answer to our social housing funding issues. We will be watching the proceeds of this sale closely to ensure NSW at least gets the greatest possible benefit from it.
Read more about Millers Point on our blog

Renters participate!

At the Tenants' Union, we think tenants should be able to participate in decision-making around the security, affordability and liveability of their housing. On our website, we maintain a list of tenant action groups of which we aware. (Listing on this page is not an endorsement of the policies or actions of the group.) If you are part of a tenant action group which is not listed and would like to be, please let us know.
Tenant Action Groups in NSW

Have your say!

We regularly need tenants who are willing to tell their stories publicly – please email us if you're keen! Before 10 July we would also like to encourage tenants to have a say in the Review of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. And if you live in a share house, take this survey from the University of Sydney.
NCAT – have your say
Share house survey
Help the Tenants' Union continue our work for tenants...
Make a donation
Like us on Facebook Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Twitter
Check out our website Check out our website
You're receiving this email because you are on the Tenant News email list. This e-bulletin is produced by the Tenants' Union of NSW for tenants, tenant advocates, tenant activists and community workers.

For tenancy advice, please contact your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service. See

The Tenants' Union has published Tenant News for over 40 years – originally as a printed magazine (ISSN-1030-1054), now as an email newsletter. Check out the archive here.

Legal information in this email is intended as a guide to the law and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice. It applies to people who live in or are affected by, the law as it applies in NSW, Australia.

Copyright © 2019 Tenants' Union of NSW, All rights reserved.
Suite 201, 55 Holt St, Surry Hills, 2010, NSW. (02) 8117 3700

Forward this email to a friend
Update your subscription preferences
Unsubscribe from all Tenants' Union emails

The Tenants’ Union recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the First Peoples of Australia. Our office is on the lands of the Gadigal of the Eora Nation. We are committed to respecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures, lands, and histories as we battle for tenants’ rights.