Boarding house reforms urgently needed

A NSW Government proposal to enforce boarding house standards will help address the appalling conditions that exist in many of the state’s boarding houses, according to the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS).

The need for action has been highlighted by the coronial inquest into the deaths of Shaneen Batts, Ilona Takacs, Dorothy Hudson, Ian Birks, Donald MacKellar and Mohammed Ramzan. All of these people died between 2009 and 2010 at a boarding house in Marrickville.

‘The NSW Ombudsman has previously identified serious human rights violations for people living in licensed boarding houses in NSW,’  said HPLS policy officer, Mr Louis Schetzer.

‘Yet until now, nothing has been done to protect these vulnerable residents. Significant numbers of homeless people rely on boarding house accommodation and many of these people have physical and intellectual disabilities, or a mental illness.

‘We urgently need better regulation of licensed and unlicensed boarding houses. 

‘As more licensed boarding houses close or relinquish their licenses, it becomes even more crucial for a comprehensive regulatory framework that also covers unlicensed boarding houses,’ Mr Schetzer said.

In a media statement, the NSW Minister for Disability Services, Andrew Constance, said protection for boarding house residents would improve under legislation to be introduced to Parliament later this year. 

Proposed changes include :

  • The introduction of a registration system for NSW boarding houses
  • Occupancy rights for residents
  • Standards for boarding houses
  • Increased penalties for non-compliance with the regulations
  • Increased powers of entry.

The Minister said a Draft Exposure Bill will be provided to key stakeholders for feedback before the legislation is introduced to Parliament.

The Homeless Persons’ Legal Service is a joint initiative of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) NSW.

Read the NSW Ombudsman’s report

Read the Coroner’s report (pdf)

Related coverage: 

Dickensian boarding house contributed to deaths, ABC Radio, 11 May 2012

Sydney’s ‘Dickensian’ scandal: six dead, SMH 11 May 2012

Reforms planned for boarding houses, SMH 10 May 2012

NSW Government ‘failed’ boarding house six, aap, 12 March 2012

Photo: Flikr

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