It is time for the NSW Government to take decisive action on boarding houses, and I have argued for:
- Legislated rights and responsibilities;
- Support for boarders and lodgers with complex needs; and
- Help to keep a viable boarding house industry.
Unlicensed boarding houses are a vital low cost housing option, but there has been a continuing decline in numbers since the 1970s, putting vulnerable people at greater risk of homelessness. Latest estimates show as few as 200 boarding houses in the City of Sydney.
I am pleased that My Lord Mayoral Salary Trust could fund Redfern Legal Centre's Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Service to prepare this new resource kit for community workers. It highlights the complex maze of legislation boarders and lodgers find themselves in. For example, there are no common standards for basic things like bonds, rent in advance, facilities, privacy, or overcrowding. Where tenants and landlords have a specific Act and Regulations that identify rights and responsibilities, with the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT) available to mediate disputes, boarders and lodgers don't; nor do operators.
Disputes may have to go the Local, District or Supreme Court, or could be heard by the CTTT. This can take years and lots of money.
This is clearly impractical when dealing with basic questions about repairs, cleanliness, or even getting locks on door and working power points. There are no rules about rent or increases, and no notice of eviction needed.
I have repeatedly called on the NSW Government to provide for Occupancy Agreements that spell out basic rights and responsibilities, based on the ACT model, and intend to introduce a Private Members Bill if the Government does not change the law.