Friday, March 4, 2016

Asbestos testing, compensation for tenants

NSW Fair Trading has established a program to identify, purchase, and demolish homes that contain loose asbestos as ceiling insulation. Its Loose-fill Asbestos Implementation Taskforce has identified 28 Local Government Areas, where a company trading as ‘Mr. Fluffy’ installed the toxic substance in residential properties throughout the 1960s and 70s. The LGAs identified include metropolitan and regional areas throughout NSW.

A roof containing loose-fill asbestos

The NSW Government is offering free testing of potentially affected properties before 1 August 2016. Unfortunately, testing is not available for tenants directly, as it must be organised by the property’s owner. Registration for testing is available online, or by contacting Service NSW.
Compensation may be available for tenants of properties that are purchased and demolished under the scheme.
Relocation assistance up to $1000 will be provided to any tenant “named on the residential lease”. It is unclear whether tenants with an oral and/or implied agreement with the landlord would be eligible. These constitute residential tenancy agreements to the same extent as those whose agreement is recorded in writing, per Section 13 of the Residential Tenancies ActThis requirement would also seem to exclude sub-tenants. We hope to clarify these ambiguities soon. 
Tenants are also eligible for compensation up to $1000 for the replacement of “soft furnishings and or/porous materials like clothes, curtains or linen” that are exposed to loose-fill asbestos. Only household items kept in contaminated areas will need to be replaced.
Fair Trading’s website identifies demolition as “the only way to remove the health risk of loose-fill asbestos insulation from an affected property”.
Tenants who suspect their home may be affected should contact their Local Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service for assistance. 

Contact details for the relevant general services are as follows:

- Illawarra and South Coast Tenants Service: 4274 3475

- Northern Sydney Area Tenants' Service: 8198 8650
- Southern Sydney Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service: 9787 4679
- South Western NSW Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service: 1300 483 786
- Western Sydney Tenants' Service: 8833 0933

Aboriginal tenants may also contact the following Aboriginal services:

- Greater Sydney Aboriginal Tenants Service: 9698 0873

- Southern NSW Aboriginal Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service (Murra Mia): 4472 9363
- Western Aboriginal Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service: 6884 0969

Fair Trading NSW is also hosting free information sessions in select locations; check their events register.

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