Monday, January 21, 2013

Public housing amnesty for unauthorised additional occupants

Do you live in public housing or Aboriginal Housing Office Housing? Do you have someone living with you who Housing NSW doesn't know about?

If you do, you should think about informing Housing NSW under its amnesty for unauthorised additional occupants.

The amnesty runs from today, 21 January, to 17 March 2013. Housing NSW states that 'if you make a report relating to an unauthorised additional occupant residing in your property during the amnesty you will be protected from prosecution and won't have to pay back rent or be worried about being evicted.

Housing NSW will use the information you provide to recalculate your rental rebate according to its policy – so you will pay a higher rent, going forward.

But the amnesty may still be a very good deal, because ordinarily Housing NSW will, upon finding out about an unauthorised additional occupant, cancel your rental rebate, backdate the cancellation to when they reckon the person moved in, adjust your rent account accordingly to create a mountain of arrears (we've seen cases where tenants have been presented with arrears well over $100 000), and then give you a termination notice on the ground of the arrears.

The amnesty could save you a lot of trouble – we urge you to consider it. If you've any questions, please speak to your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service.

A few things to note:
  • For the amnesty to apply, the information has to come from you. Housing NSW says if you get dobbed in by someone else, you'll be told and given one opportunity to 'fess up. If you do, you're covered; if you don't, you're not protected and can expect Housing NSW to proceed against you in the usual way.
  • The amnesty relates to unauthorised additional occupants, not other factors in incorrect rental rebates (for example, your own undeclared income).
  • The amnesty is for public housing tenants and Aboriginal Housing Office tenants only; it does not apply to community housing tenants or Aboriginal community housing tenants.
[UPDATE: Check out our updates on the amnesty here.]


  1. What about people who are in a long term relationship with someone who has their own address but often stays over?

    Everyone loves a lover, they say, but I'm wondering about Housing NSW.

  2. Good question, DH...

    HNSW have produced a factsheet to go with this amnesty (see URL details below), which reflects their current approach to additional occupants. Once a tenant has had someone staying over for more than 28 days, HNSW will start to take an interest.

    This doesn't help much in the situation you describe. If a person stays over intermittently, say, two or three nights per week, over an extended period of time, they will easily avoid the 28 day rule.

    Tenants might expect HNSW (or indeed their own neighbours, who are encouraged to report them) to start asking questions when a friend stays over, with regularity, for more than two or three nights per week.

    The critical thing to remember is that it will be up to the tenant, and the alleged additional occupant, to convince HNSW that they have not moved in (and, in the parlance of todays announcement, are not engaged in a "rort").

    This means proving a negative, and that can be tricky. Reference to things like an address on a drivers' license, a post office box, or some other indication that a person has an alternate address will assist.

    Any tenant who is being falsely accused of harbouring unauthorised additional occupants should make a bee-line for their local Tenants' Advice & Advocacy Service.


  3. Hi DH

    All the talk of 'rorts' and 'fraud' in media about the amnesty - and in the Minister's media release, and in Housing NSW's policies, for that matter - is regrettable, but not surprising.

    In so many of the cases we see, the problem is not a calculated fraud; it's just that some people lives don't perfectly fit the policy.

    And, as you indicate, you don't even have to be doing anything terribly unusual - eg just having a boyfriend or girlfriend stay over - to run into trouble.

    This obsession with tenants' household circumstances, and the surveillance that goes with it, are more unpleasant side-effects of income-related rents.

  4. fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain.
    Forgetting to make that phone call is not fraud

  5. I'm concerned about the vindictive neighbour who has "dobbed in" just about every tenant in the street for imaginary breaches. Our local office spends so much time chasing their own tail that they can't get any REAL work done - like fixing the termite damaged houses (now 8 months overdue).

    I've been on the receiving end twice of this vexatious nasty neighbour - both times been put through the wringer with no evidence whatsoever apart from the GOSSIP from one person.

    She says BOO and Housing dance to her tune.

    This policy will do nothing to improve the already atrocious relationship between tenant and provider - and will just escalate the deterioration of the community by pitching one neighbour against another.

  6. Jax,
    You are %100 correct, this is a typical governments diversion at a money grab. There is always one nut job of a neighbour in every complex that makes their life's goal to complain, time wasted on people like this is better served elsewhere. Trust between Dept and tenants is at an all time low. When there is a real problem that costs money the way to avoid the expense is to have another meeting. What comes out of meetings? Nothing but it sure does avoid the money issue. But don't worry I expect this governments next move is to incorporate Housing NSW into the RTA like Maritime did.

  7. @Jax,

    I have a similar neighbour, I also have neighbours who are drug users/alcoholics and drug dealers whom I have complained about for several years all to no avail.

    Department of housing are only interested in money and chasing people up who have been repeatedly dobbed in by vindictive neighbours rather than getting off their cushiony seat and doing their job.

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  9. hello guys,i'm just dobbed in by my neighbor.I have a boyfriend lives in perth who often visit me one week in every month.And also i have my son and daughter live the same street and my son come everyday to check me.I'm suffering from depresion and panic attacks and in medication.I give my son a key so he can come in because sometimes i collapsed .Then one day i recieved a letter from HNSW that i have unauthorize occupants also one of the housing officer come to my place and accused me of having extra people live .They even check the rooms.This is really make me more depress.Please help me .

  10. Hi Gertrude

    Get in touch with your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service (see the link in the sidebar at right).

    They can help you make the case to HNSW that your visitors really are visitors, not occupants.

    If HNSW makes up its mind that they're occupants, you can ask for that decision to be reviewed internally and, if the review comes up with the same decision, you can appeal to the Housing Appeals Committee.

    Speak to your local TAAS for more. Best of luck with it.

  11. Where i live there is a townhouse been empty for 12 months as the guy that is suppose to live there is living with a 80 year old woman taking her money and trying to get into her will. He is a drug user and keeps his furniture there to make out he lives there. There are homeless people that could be living in this place. Shame on housing n s w. Bout time u done inspection more

  12. Another scam by public housing tenants is to tell housing that their adult age kids have moved out,when they are still livng in the house with the parents.Does NSW public housing investigate.Of course not.Another private rental/private homeowner taxpayer funded rort.Scrap all public housing and make these bludgers pay their own accomodation.

    1. Hi again Anonymous,

      So much to say - so little time...

      But as for private rental/private homeowner taxpayer funded rorts - I reckon you're getting pretty close to the money there. Public housing is small fry by comparison.

      Thanks again for stopping by,


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