13 June 2019

Landlords are, as a rule, awful — and it seems the government landlords who control vulnerable people’s access to social housing are no exception. A new report analysed court and tribunal decisions and found that tenants are frequently evicted because of circumstances beyond their control, including victims of domestic violence evicted because of the behaviour of their abusers. For example: “In a 2017 case, Victoria’s public housing authority evicted a woman with an acquired brain injury and a cognitive disorder from her home of nine years. The woman appealed, telling a tribunal much of the ‘evidence presented related to her partner … over whom she had no control’. She told the tribunal he had hit her ‘two weeks’ before the hearing. But the department successfully argued the ‘yelling, screaming, making loud noises, fighting and using threatening and abusive language’ represented a ‘nuisance’ breach.” This “nuisance” included threats of violence by the woman’s partner. The tribunal (presumably VCAT) upheld her eviction. The report was produced by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, and it notes that the threat of eviction is not only unjust in these circumstances, but that it can actively discourage vulnerable tenants from seeking assistance to address their problems.