By Phoenix Van Dyke
Most days, the Inner Sydney Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service (ISTAAS) at Redfern Legal Centre is being contacted by despairing tenants, who just can’t get their landlord, Housing NSW, to do necessary repairs in their homes.
And, we are not just talking about dripping taps, but serious issues, such as roof leaks that have sometimes gone on for years. One client had to cook holding an umbrella every time it rained, as water was leaking from her kitchen ceiling.
From our experience, tenants often give up after calling the Contact Centre to report the repairs over a number of months, or sometimes even years, and resign themselves to living in sub-standard and sometimes unsafe conditions.
“All I want is to come back to a home where I can relax and feel safe”, said one tenant, who has been trying to reach Housing NSW. And yes, this is your right.
The Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) (RTA) says: a landlord must provide and maintain the residential premises in a reasonable state of repair, having regard to the age of, rent payable for and prospective life of the premises.
Housing NSW is the largest landlord in the State. Although there are some different requirements in the RTA for private landlords and social housing landlords, the duty to do repairs is the same for all these housing providers.
“We have put the repair on our schedule of maintenance to be done in the next financial year” or even “in 2014” are common messages heard by tenants. But no, if it is a repair, you do not have to wait until 2014 to have it done. Scheduled maintenance is for things like painting walls, or maybe, if you are lucky, a new kitchen – in short, anything that would fall under the heading of ‘renovation’.
If something is broken, leaking or no longer works, it is a repair and Housing NSW is required by law to fix it.
So, what can Housing NSW tenants do, if they have asked for repairs to be done and nothing is happening? Well, like any other tenant, they can put in an application to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT) and ask for an order that repairs will be done. For some people, this sounds scary, however, in actual fact, it is not that complicated. The CTTT is set up so that people can represent themselves and solicitors are only allowed in special circumstances.
To help Housing NSW tenants complete the necessary applications, ISTAAS has a drop-in session on the first Tuesday of every month from 10am to 12pm at 73 Pitt Street, Redfern.
We also publish The Repair Kit, a how-to guide for public tenants. You can call us for a copy of the guide on 9698 5975 or download a copy.
We encourage Housing NSW tenants to contact their local politician and tell them about their repair problems.
Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Services can help tenants with common problems, including rent increases, getting bond money returned or repairs done and ending a tenancy. Assistance can range from advice over the phone through to sometimes, representation at the CTTT.
Funded by the interest NSW Fair Trading collects on rental bonds, these important services assist some of the most vulnerable members of the community. Despite the increasing demand from private and public housing tenants, baseline funding has not increased in over ten years. In Queensland, the situation has reached a critical point, with funding for these services recently jeopardised.
Show your support for NSW services and contact your local Member for Parliament. A sample letter can also be downloaded from the Tenants’ NSW website.
Originally published in Inner Sydney Voice, Issue 116, Spring 2012