News: Sydney tenants fear landlord retaliation if they complain about repairs

Published in SMH Domain, 20 March 2017

Philippa*, 35, pays more than $800 a week for a two-bedroom Redfern terrace. But despite paying a substantial sum she is refusing to call the property manager to undertake much-needed repairs.

The reason? She’s scared she’ll get evicted now that her 12-month lease has turned periodic. 

While there is legislation in place to stop “retaliation” from landlords — such as rent increases and evictions — due to maintenance requests, experts say it’s too difficult to enforce. 

Maintenance problems began soon after Philippa moved into the home and led to “two months of phone calls” and arguing with the property manager.

Now, the rental has a dodgy stove top, a broken lock on the back gate and an unusable washing line she has chosen not to complain about.

“I’m just putting up with it … I think people underestimate the level of insecurity and anxiety about never knowing if you might get asked to move out,” she said.

She’s not alone in fearing what will happen if she complains.

Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service branches across NSW take regular calls of concern from tenants fearing they’ll be evicted, or given a rent rise, should they make complaints or regularly ask for repairs.

Julia Murray from the Inner Western Sydney Tenants’ Advice Service said the calls were “almost daily” regarding ignored maintenance requests and the consequences of going to tribunal.

For those coming up to the end of a fixed-term lease, with 30-days notice from landlords required to end a tenancy, and periodic tenancies with 90-day notice requirements, “tenants can’t assert their rights without fearing they’ll have to move,” Ms Murray said.

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