Our Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS) recently helped a public housing tenant win a case against his problem landlord at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).
The tenant received compensation and his landlord was ordered to pay his legal costs. The outcome puts other badly behaving landlords on notice.
Jamie* asked HPLS for support after employees and contractors of his landlord (the NSW Land and Housing Corporation) continuously turned up at his door unannounced.
This was hugely disruptive and meant Jamie was regularly expected to let strangers into his home without any notice.
Jamie had already represented himself at NCAT twice. At both hearings, NCAT made orders to protect Jamie from further intrusion. The landlord was told to comply with its obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW), with respect to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the property. That meant not turning up or sending tradespeople without notice.
Regardless, the unannounced visits continued. Jamie estimates he had about 20 unannounced visits for inspections and maintenance over six months.
When tradespeople visited, Jamie was left to clean up the dust and debris left behind. He had to throw away food and personal items contaminated by dust. He was sometimes forced to make alternative arrangements to eat, study and shower because of the mess and disruption. On some occasions, repairs were left incomplete until the next unannounced visit.
This all left Jamie highly distressed and frustrated that the landlord was refusing to comply with NCAT’s orders.
HPLS Senior Solicitor Tim Ngui supported Jamie in his latest application to NCAT and briefed pro bono counsel to appear.
‘This time, the Tribunal not only recognised Jamie’s rights as a tenant, but made orders to address the landlord’s ongoing failure to comply and the impact that was having on Jamie,’ says Tim.
In its ruling in Jamie’s favour, NCAT made further orders requiring the landlord to comply with its obligations. It also awarded Jamie $3,000 in compensation, up from the $1,000 he asked for in his Tribunal application.
Because of the non-compliance with past orders, the landlord was also ordered to pay Jamie’s legal costs. ‘This is a rare outcome in NCAT matters and reflects the severity of the landlord’s breaches,’ says Tim.
That outcome alone will put problem landlords on notice. But a further development should strongly encourage landlords to do the right thing.
‘The matter was referred to the Deputy President of NCAT for the purpose of deciding whether contempt proceedings should be commenced against the landlord, due to the ongoing non-compliance with orders,’ says Tim.
‘While those proceedings ultimately did not go ahead, it signals that landlords may be open to actions for contempt where there is on-going breach of NCAT orders that cause hardship for tenants.’
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.