Monday, July 8, 2013

How to be recognised as a tenant

A few months ago we discussed some changes to public housing 'succession' policies. It has long been our intention to provide an update on this but, alas, we've been distracted by some other big policy changes over the last couple of weeks.


When the changes were announced back in March, we didn't have much to go on - just a couple of unfortunately worded press clippings. Since then, the changes have commenced, and the policies behind them are available for all to see on the Housing Pathways website.

Here's our loose translation - provided for general information only and not to be relied on in pursuing recognition as a tenant. For advice, contact your local TAAS.

- An occupant of a property that is managed by HNSW (who is not a tenant) can apply to be recognised as a tenant if the occupant (who is the tenant) dies, goes to prison, has to leave the property for medical reasons, or is not able to personally reside in the property for an extended period of time due to some other acceptable absence. These things are now helpfully known as Recognition As A Tenant Events. HNSW must be notified of a Recognition As A Tenant Event as soon as possible, using Part A of the appropriate form.

- If the occupant notifies HNSW within 6 weeks of the Recognition As A Tenant Event, and they meet a few key criteria (including a promise to relinquish the current property so as not to 'under-occupy' if applicable), they will become eligible for a 6 month 'provisional lease'. If the occupant takes longer than 6 weeks to notify HNSW of the Recognition As A Tenant Event, and doesn't have a good reason for doing so, and/or they don't meet the few key criteria, they will be given a 3 month 'exit lease'. (In either case, the occupant should be made a tenant within 7 days of notifying HNSW of the Recognition As A Tenant Event, so that they may enjoy any remaining time they have left in their home to the fullest.)

Got that? Good. Now let's move on...

- When occupants notify HNSW of the Recognition As A Tenant Event, they may also complete Part B of the appropriate form, which is to formally apply for Recognition As A Tenant. This form asks the occupant, who we can now call an applicant, to provide all sorts of information about their relationship to the tenant, as well as to the property that the tenant used to live in. This information will be considered by HNSW in deciding what to offer the applicant.

- There are two things the applicant may be offered. The first is: nothing new. They've already got their 6 month provisional lease (or, perhaps, a 3 month exit lease), and HNSW reckons that's plenty of time to get everything sorted and head off into a glorious private rental sunset. The second is: approval for Recognition As A Tenant. The applicant will become a tenant, and thereafter enjoy the right to remain housed subject to a two, five or ten year residential tenancy agreement with HNSW - depending on their entitlement.

Right. Still with us? That's good, because we're not done yet...

- An applicant who is the spouse of the no-longer-occupying tenant, and who is also 55 years old or more, may be entitled to Recognition As A Tenant through succession. (Succession may also be granted to an applicant who is (or may become) the custodian of children who are resident at a property for which there is a no-longer-occupying tenant - but that's getting into the realms of the slightly-more-tricky, and we'll leave it to the policy to explain that).

- An applicant who does not fit that description - eg the no-longer-occupying tenant's spouse or partner who is not-yet-55-years-old, or their adult child, or sister, or live-in carer, or friend, or stranger taken in off the street - will not be entitled to Recognition As A Tenant through succession. These applicants will have to demonstrate that they are not only eligible for Recognition As A Tenant, but that they have an urgent need for housing that can not be met elsewhere.

Wait - what?

An applicant's urgent need for housing will have just been resolved with a 6 month 'provisional lease'...

... but the question of whether their real need for housing can be met elsewhere (that's the need that will be created when in 6 months time their tenancy is terminated by HNSW) will still need to be tested.

How these issues will be resolved on a case by case basis is anybody's guess. We'll be keeping an eye on it. Please drop us a line if you find yourself engaged by the Recognition As A Tenant process, and you'd like to let us know what you encounter. (For advice on the process, contact your local TAAS).

One last thing: HNSW says they will let applicants know if they are entitled to Recognition As A Tenant within 14 days of making the application. This means that applicants will have 14 days to demonstrate that, in 6 months time, they will not be able to meet their urgent need for housing.

As we said those few months ago:
... if what it takes to stay in your home, and stay in the system, is to knock back work, get sick, and convince Housing NSW and yourself that you're wretchedly, hopelessly unable to cope out there, you might well do it.

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