A David and Goliath battle in public housing; renters voices call for change; the real cost of bond insurance products; plus more.
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David and Goliath:

One tenant's 14-year battle for repairs

There can be no doubt that David Bott is a tenant with a keen sense of justice and a vast reservoir of determination.

David spent the last 14 years battling to get basic repairs done in his home. Finally, his landlord – FACS – has made the necessary repairs, but only after they got dangerously close to being found in contempt of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Thanks to David’s tenacity, his case has also paved the way for significant changes to the way FACS will deal with repairs in public housing.

As well as having a legally significant outcome, David’s long-running battle shone a light on a serious issue which public housing tenants know all too well: the systematic failure of FACS to do necessary repairs – even when ordered to do so by the Tribunal.
In a damning decision handed down in Bott v NSW Land and Housing Corporation, the Tribunal stated: “There can be no basis for describing the long-standing and continuing breaches by the respondent [FACS] of the several orders of this Tribunal as casual, accidental or unintentional.”

Throughout the the case, the driving force was David himself. David also received assistance from Tenant Advocate David Maloney at the Eastern Area Tenants' Service, Tenant Advocate Martin Barker, and Legal Aid solicitor Lindsay Ash. Thanks must also go to Barrister Nick Eastman for his pro bono assistance.
Read David's story

A missed opportunity for change?

Earlier this week, the Sydney Morning Herald reported the disappointing news that the NSW government is unlikely to announce plans to abolish unfair evictionsNo grounds evictions to remain after review of tenancy laws. The SMH article includes comments from the TU and other housing advocacy groups, as well as a renter's story.
Hanna Torsh and her young family had been living in their Earlwood home for 4½ years when they complained to the real estate agent that their stove was faulty, and offered to "go halves" with the landlord on a good quality replacement. The answer (delivered via email) was a no-grounds eviction. Read more
The NSW government announcement did include the very good news that there will be stronger protections for tenants who are victims of domestic violence. Under the proposal, tenants escaping domestic violence will be able to terminate their leases more easily, and will be protected from blacklisting by agents due to property damaged cause by a violent partner. These reforms are thanks in part to a long-running campaign by advocacy groups, coordinated by Womens Legal Service NSW. The NSW government should be congratulated on these proposed changes – they are a significant step forward.

The reform that would bring the greatest benefit to renters is the removal of unfair 'no grounds' evictions. Failure to do so would be a disappointing missed opportunity. The government announcement says that an Exposure Bill on tenancy reforms will be available in 'the coming months'. While it is frustrating that change for renters doesn't seem to be high on the agenda, this does give us an opportunity to send a clear message to the NSW government: don't let this be a #missedopportunity.

Now is a great time to spread the word about the Make Renting Fair campaign! Please like and share our new renters' voices photos on Facebook! And if you haven't already, please sign the petition and contribute your own story.
Renters' Voices on Facebook

What do bond insurance products really cost tenants?

Paying the bond is a real hardship for many tenants. Tenants move on average every two years, and for many its much more frequent than that!

To make matters worse, there is often a cross over period between tenancies where a renter has had to pay a bond on the new place, before the bond from the previous home has been released.

Several companies have recognised the issue of bonds as a pain point for tenants and are pushing the boundaries of the law and math to try and work out how best to insert themselves into this process. There are currently pay day lenders, bond loan specific companies, and bond insurance products. Now come bond “surety” (or “guarantee”) products where the company promises to pay the landlord if there is a compensation claim at the end of the tenancy. Though not technically loans they function similarly.
Tenants' Union Senior Policy Officer Leo Patterson Ross looks at these bond insurance products in two companion articles on the TU blog:
In The bond is too damn high, Leo looks broadly at bonds and bond alternative products. He discusses the question of whether bonds are a tax, and if so what sort of tax. He also considers who benefits from bonds, and if there any other ways to reduce the hardship caused to tenants by bonds.
In the second article, Does BondCover have you covered? Leo examines Snug’s BondCover – and whether it is a good deal for renters. The ACT government has apparently allowed Snug and other products to be lawful in that territory, to the dismay of renting experts there.

Tenants' Union training

The Tenants' Union has an active program of community education. Each year we run training for several hundred people – including Tenant Advocates, workers from government and non-government organistions, and renters in the community. In the last few months our learning and development team have:
  • presented to summer school housing law students at UNSW
  • partnered with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in presenting "Tenancy law for non-lawyers"
  • discussed tenancy issues and shared learnings with Law Access
  • participated in youth homeless information day
  • participated in City of Sydney welcome day for international students
  • led a seminar with Fair Trading complaints unit on tenancy law in practice

Boarding Houses training

When: Thursday 14 June 2018
Where: Haymarket
Cost: $100
Who should attend? This training is for Tenant Advocates and frontline workers from community services.
What is this training about? This one day training will cover topics such as:
  • the Boarding Houses Act and it's application and coverage
  • occupancy principles
  • occupancy agreements
  • ways to resolve disputes
  • evictions
  • review of the legislation
  • other issues advocates and community workers might encounter in relation to working with boarding house residents
This training will be run by Grant Arbuthnot, Leo Patterson Ross and Patrycja Arvidssen.

Register by filling in this form and emailing or faxing it back to the Tenants' Union along with the payment. If you have any questions, contact us at training@tenantsunion.org.au
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For tenancy advice, please contact your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service. See tenants.org.au

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 New South Wales, Australia.

Copyright © 2018 Tenants' Union of NSW, All rights reserved.
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