Living in social housing can sometimes feel like a minefield when it comes to the behaviour of your fellow tenants.
You may be a model tenant, mindful of others, music kept at a respectable level, display ninja-like-moves when returning to your unit complex late at night after a few drinks, always placing the appropriate recyclables in the yellow lidded bins etc.
We sure hope that our neighbours are equally as courteous, but alas, it is not always the case.
As a tenant, you have the right to the peaceful enjoyment of your home. Antisocial behaviour can negatively impact your quality of life. This can be especially so for people living with HIV (PLHIV) who may have received some form of stigma and discrimination during their social housing tenancy.
So what is anti-social behaviour?
Family and Community Services (FACS) define it as a behaviour which disturbs the peace, comfort and privacy of other tenants or neighbours or the surrounding community which results in a breach of the tenancy agreement under the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010.
FACS also defines anti-social behaviour into three categories. Let’s explore these further.
Severe Illegal Behaviour – This is for serious anti-social behaviour which can result in FACS applying directly to NCAT (the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal) to terminate the tenancy. Severe Illegal Behaviour includes:
Grievous bodily harm towards a neighbour, visitor and/or FACS staff
Manufacture, supply or sale of prohibited drugs (meth, pot, moonshine etc)
Using your home as an illegal brothel
Boat rebirthing (try doing that in your studio unit in Waterloo!)
Serious Anti-social behaviour – This one’s for behaviours that can put people at risk and severely disturb safety. Usually FACS issues a notice of termination followed by an application to NCAT to terminate the tenancy. This behaviour includes:
Threats, abuse, intimidation and harassment
Provoking your pet to attack neighbours or visitors – from pit bulls to gold fish
Hate and threatening behaviour that targets groups (can include ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation and people living with HIV)
Negligent and extensive damage to a FACS property.
Minor and moderate antisocial behaviour – In this case, FACS will issue a warning followed by the commencement of their strike policy i.e. three strikes and you’re out. These are activities which disturb the peace, comfort and privacy of other tenants and neighbours and includes:
Harassment and bullying
Swearing your mouth off to neighbours and visitors
Noisy, out of control parties, shouting or screaming or excessive noise from music or your TV (watching Bold and the Beautiful at 150 decibels)
Vandalism, graffiti and abandoning vehicles on the property
Leaving large amounts of rubbish within your home or the common areas
Damage to property.
From August this year, FACS introduced a new policy where tenants found responsible for minor and moderate antisocial behaviour will be referred to support to help them resolve their antisocial behaviour. The idea around this new policy is to encourage disruptive FACS tenants to engage with a support service before the antisocial behaviour escalates.
For example, a tenant found responsible of minor and moderate antisocial behaviour due to drug and alcohol issues that have negatively impacted other tenants, may be referred to a Drug and Alcohol Service. A tenant with anger management issues may be referred to a support service for counselling.
Initially, the disruptive FaCS tenant (i.e. neighbour from hell) will meet with their CSO (Customer Service Officer) at their local housing office to discuss the issue. The Substantiated Antisocial Behaviour Referral Form will be completed with the details of the nominated support service. It is then up to the tenant to contact the support service within 14 days otherwise the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy will apply.
The next time you are on the receiving end of a verbal spray from your lovely neighbour, keep in mind these processes which could work in your favour. Time will tell if this new initiative will have the desired effect. On one hand it’s great that FACS are open to new ideas when dealing with ongoing antisocial issues. On the other hand, history shows us that people are more likely to excel with support if it is of their choosing, rather than feeling forced to comply. Perhaps the threat of losing their tenancy will sway….. time will tell.
These policies only apply to FACS Housing tenants. Community Housing providers will have their own policies in dealing with antisocial behaviour.