Tenant News

Tenants' rights after a disaster – new podcast

Flooding and ruined belongings in Lismore. Photos courtesy of Bridget Barker.
Our thoughts are with all those suffering in the wake of the devastating floods and storms along the east coast. It has been a heartbreaking disaster. 

Together with Legal Aid NSW, the Tenants' Union has just published a special episode of our podcast: Tenants' rights and obligations after a disaster. It covers the most common issues faced by renters after a disaster.
The podcast is presented by (pictured above): Bridget Barker (Legal Aid NSW), Brendan Ross (Coordinator of the Northern Rivers Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service) – both of whom live in Lismore – and Grant Arbuthnot (Principal Solicitor of the Tenants’ Union). In a clear easy-to-follow conversation, they discuss key issues such as:
  • Repairs, urgent repairs, and uninhabitable dwellings
  • Access – including for tenants retrieving belongings, unwanted landlord access, and insurance assessors
  • Getting your bond back after flood damage
  • Rent abatement, rent reduction, and applying to the Tribunal
  • Utilities – getting them reconnected etc
  • Top tips – communicate in writing, take lots of photos, and more
Listen now
For other useful resources, see also:

Community pulling together

Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre. Photos courtesy Brendan Ross.
Along with the heartbreak, it's been an inspiration to see the community coming together in solidarity and supporting each other. The Aboriginal community is once again leading the way:  The Northern Rivers Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service saw their office flooded and staff affected, at the same time as experiencing a surge in demand for legal advice. Nevertheless, they got out on the ground rapidly, giving advice at Disaster Recovery Centres across the region, together with colleagues from Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre and Legal Aid NSW.

This rapid response was aided in part by the rest of the Network of Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Services across NSW, who stepped in to help return renters’ calls and make sure people got the urgent advice they needed. The Tenants’ Union was proud to be able to assist with coordinating this back up advice service. At times like these, the dedication, flexibility, and local knowledge of our Network really shines.

When disaster hits a housing system in crisis 

The flood disaster came on top of the existing severe housing crisis. Now even more people are being forced into unfit housing and homelessness.

Could things be different?

Instead of being part of the problem, could our housing system actually support people through a crisis? We believe it could. But it would require both significant legal change and an ambitious investment in social housing. 

Is the conversation is changing?

Along with the growing recognition that we can expect to see further 'natural' disasters as a result of climate change, there are glimmers of a shift in the discourse around housing and renting. Rent control, regulation of landlords, and public housing investment, are all back on the agenda. We also note hopeful political developments, in the form of Greens MP Jenny Leong's private member's bill to protect flood affected renters. And in the ACT, Labor Member Michael Pettersson’s motion drawing attention to the information imbalance at the applications stage by requesting references from landlords (Canberra Weekly). As the Federal election draws near we are also beginning to see housing on the agenda for all the main political parties (SMH). What's important is that these policies address the housing needs of the people doing it toughest – who are predominantly renters.  

It's time to Make Renting Fair!

Next week, we’re inviting all NSW renters to join the Make Renting Fair #MyRentedHome social media week of action. We're asking you to share something about your rented home on the social media platform of your choice – get some ideas here.  

Boarding house residents need our support

The fire and tragic loss of life at Vajda boarding house in Newtown has once again reminded the wider community of the immense hardship faced by boarding house residents. Surviving residents have lost their homes and their possessions, and are in urgent need of support. Newtown Neighbourhood Centre are doing a fantastic job on the ground assisting residents with their immediate needs. If you are able, please donate to their fundraiser.

Too often, boarding house residents are forced to put up with housing that is dilapidated and unsafe, and don't get the support or social services they need. Moreover, the legislation that governs the boarding house sector hasn't kept up with changes in the sector. As a community, we need to do better. 

For more info, check out our factsheets on the Boarding Houses Act and Boarders and Lodgers. Also, stay tuned for an upcoming episode of our podcast on sharehousing and boarding houses. 

Disability Royal Commission

Imagine trying to fight for your rights as a tenant when your landlord is in charge of the support workers who make sure you can eat, shower and go outside. That’s the situation many people with disabilities find themselves in. With affordable and accessible housing in short supply, we are often pushed into group homes or boarding houses against our will.

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has made a start on exposing the housing problems people with disability face, but there’s so much more of this story to tell.

Can you help? 2022 is the last year to tell the Royal Commission about your experience.  A disability advocate from People With Disability Australia (PWDA) can support you to share your story.
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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.

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The Tenants’ Union recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are the First Nations of Australia. Our office is on the Country 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.