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Chapter 7 Section E: Housing and accommodation, advice and assistance

7E.1: Introduction

In Australia, everyone has the right to live somewhere safe and secure. Safe, affordable and appropriate housing is very important for people living with mental health conditions as is being able to access appropriate services. Your rights and responsibilities may vary depending on the type of accommodation you live in.

This section of the Manual sets out the different types of accommodation that are available, and links to where you can go to find out more about your rights and responsibilities relating to each type of accommodation. It also provides information about who to contact and where to get help if you want to complain about your accommodation.

There is also information about where to get support to live in the community and how to deal with problems in housing or accommodation, such as discrimination, a tenancy dispute and problems with neighbours.
In this section of the Manual, you can find out about:

  • Your rights if you own your own home
  • Your rights as a tenant
  • Your rights as a tenant experiencing domestic and family violence
  • Rent support, including financial assistance and crisis accommodation
  • Crisis support including eligibility, costs, services available and how to access
  • Home and Community Living Supports
  • HASI and CLS
  • Protected tenants
  • Discrimination and accommodation
  • Tenancy dispute resolution
  • Getting legal advice, advocacy and support with your tenancy issue
  • Handling problems with neighbours

7E.2: Rights if you own your own home

If you own your own home, you have the rights of homeowners to privacy, quiet enjoyment and the use of your own home.

If someone enters your property without your permission, you can ask them to leave. If they refuse, they are trespassing under the law and you can use reasonable force to remove them. A person invited on to your property, for example for gardening or an open house inspection, is only entitled to be there for that purpose and they must leave as soon as you ask them to leave.

You also have obligations, such as keeping up with mortgage payments, payment of bills and local council rates and respecting the rights of your neighbours. Click here for more information about respecting the rights of neighbours.

7E.3: Your rights as a tenant

A tenant, or renter, is somebody who pays the owner of a property for the right to live in that property for an agreed period. The owner of that property is usually referred to as the landlord.

7E.3.1: Your tenancy status, the laws and your rights

Depending on your type of tenancy, different laws apply to you, and your rights and responsibilities also differ. The main laws and regulations on tenancy in NSW are:

  • Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW)
  • Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019 (NSW)
  • Residential Parks Act 1998 (NSW); and
  • Boarding House Act 2012 (NSW).

The Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) and Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019 (NSW) apply to most residential tenancies in NSW. The rights and responsibilities are generally the same whether you are renting from Housing NSW, Aboriginal Housing Office, a community organisation, a private landlord, or you are a permanent resident in a caravan park. These rights and responsibilities apply even if your tenancy arrangement or lease is based on a spoken agreement rather than a written one.

Some accommodation options will also have policies that apply in addition to the law, and you should ask if any of these apply to your tenancy. For example, accommodation provided by community organisations may have certain rules about how common spaces are to be used.

7E.3.2: Your rights as a tenant in New South Wales

The Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (NSW) and Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019 (NSW) apply to most residential tenancies in NSW, including people renting private housing, and public housing. The Act and Regulations set out the rights of landlords and tenants.

If you are a tenant, your basic legal obligations include:

  • paying your rent on time
  • keeping the property reasonably clean and undamaged and leave it in the same condition it was in when you moved in (fair wear and tear excepted)
  • not using the property for anything illegal
  • following the terms of the tenancy agreement; and
  • respecting your neighbours’ right to peace, comfort and privacy.

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW), you have a right to be given a completed Condition Report along with your Residential Tenancy Agreement before you move into the property. The condition report details the state of the property, including the level of cleanliness, repairs, and any fixtures, fittings, furniture or appliances.

You also have the right to be given a Tenant Information Statement before you rent a property. The landlord has a list of things they must inform you about, for example whether they are planning on selling the property you want to rent, or whether it has significant health or safety risks (unless it was very obvious during inspected). Click here to read the Tenant Information Statement.

The standard form for Residential Tenancy Agreement and Condition Report is available for download on the NSW Fair Trading website. Click here to see all the forms available. You should always read your tenancy agreement before signing it and raise questions if you are unsure of anything you are agreeing to.

A landlord or agent must not make false or misleading statements or knowingly conceal certain material facts from a prospective tenant before they sign an agreement. The list of material facts is available in the Tenant Information Statement that a landlord or agent must give a tenant before entering into a tenancy agreement.

The Tenants’ Union of NSW, which has a number of useful fact sheets that explain what the NSW law says about specific tenancy issues, including the law about:

  • increases in rent
  • rent arrears and what you should do if you are behind on your rent
  • your obligations and your landlord’s obligations in relation to maintenance and repairs
  • your right to privacy and your landlord’s right to enter the premises; and
  • the law about the tenants’ database and its use, and several other issues.

Click here to go to the Tenants’ Union of NSW website to see these fact sheets.

7E.3.3: Different rights for social housing tenants

Social housing is generally housing that is subsidised by government, and which is provided to people who might be denied access to the private rental market. Social housing includes public housing, community housing and Aboriginal housing.

Public housing is provided and managed by Housing NSW, which is part of the NSW Government. This webpage has information about Housing NSW’s obligations as the landlord, and information about the rights and responsibilities of public housing tenants. There is often high demand for public housing, and therefore there may be long wait times to access public housing.

Community housing is provided by community organisations, sometimes along with special facilities and support services. There are three main types of community housing: housing associations, co-operatives and church-owned housing. Living in Community Housing has information about the rights and responsibilities of community housing tenants and provide help with housing.

Aboriginal housing is provided through an Indigenous-controlled housing system. These properties are owned by the Aboriginal Housing Office and are mostly managed by Housing NSW and Aboriginal community-based housing providers. You must be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander to be eligible for Aboriginal housing. Housing NSW also has information on housing and related services that are appropriate to the needs of Aboriginal people in NSW, click here for more information.

The MyHousing app allows you to view your housing information, make simple account transitions, applications and appeals, request non-urgent repairs and notify the Department of Communities and Justice of a change in your circumstances.

7E.3.4: Your rights as a tenant in share housing

You are considered to be living in share housing if you are living with relatives, friends or others who own or are renting the place, or you are living in a boarding house or lodging. Depending on the share housing arrangement, your legal status, and your tenancy rights vary greatly. If you live with relatives who are parents, brothers, sisters or children, your arrangement may be outside residential tenancy law.

There are three types of arrangement in share housing: co-tenant; sub-tenant; and boarder or lodger. Your rights depend on which arrangement you are in:

  • Co-tenant: your name and the names of other tenants are on the residential tenancy agreement. You therefore jointly share the rights and responsibilities with the other tenants whose names are also on the agreement. Your rights are set out by the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW).
  • Sub-tenant: your name is not on the agreement, but you are responsible for part of the property (such as your bedroom). The tenant whose name is on the agreement is the head-tenant and is also your landlord. You have the same rights under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) as other tenants have against their landlord. However, these rights can be difficult to enforce without a written agreement between you and the main tenant.
  • Boarder or lodger: your name is not on a tenancy agreement. Your landlord has a lot of control over the property, including your room, and usually, there are house rules enforced. Boarders usually receive meals as part of the arrangement, whereas lodgers do not. The residential tenancy law does not apply to you, and you have limited rights and legal protections.

The Tenants’ Union of NSW has a fact sheet on ‘Share Housing’, which deals with issues commonly faced by tenants in share housing arrangements. Click here to read the fact sheet.

7E.3.5: Your rights as a boarder or lodger

The distinction between a tenant and a boarder/lodger is not always clear, but there are big differences in your legal rights depending on how you are classified. The Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) applies to tenants, but not to boarders and lodgers. If you live in a commercial boarding house, the Boarding House Act 2012 (NSW) may apply to you.

Sometimes, people living in accommodation described as ‘boarding houses’ or ‘lodgings’ are still considered tenants by the law. The key test is the amount of control the landlord has over the property.

You are likely to be a considered a boarder/lodger if:

  • your landlord has access to your room
  • you get meals, linen, or cleaning as part of the arrangement
  • you do not have your own cooking facilities; and
  • there are house rules enforced on the property.

Tenants’ Union of NSW has a fact sheet that addresses issues commonly faced by boarders and lodgers, including information on where to get help about a tenancy dispute. Click to read the fact sheet.

If you have a dispute with your landlord and you are unsure whether the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) applies to you, you can take your dispute to the Consumer and Commercial Division of NCAT.

For more information about the Boarding House Act 2012 (NSW) and for a full list of the occupancy principles, click here.

People with Disability Australia (PWDA) provides individual advocacy to people living in boarding houses. Click here for more information about what PWDA do.

7E.3.6: Your rights as a residential park tenant

Residential parks include caravan parks, manufactured home estates, and ‘mobile home villages’. They often provide long-term accommodation for a significant number of people. Some residents of residential parks own their dwelling but rent the site on which it sits; others rent both the dwelling and the site.

The NSW Fair Trading website has useful information about living in residential parks, including the rights of park residents, things to consider before signing up or moving out, where to get help to handle disputes, and the Assistance Protocol for Residential Park Closures.

Click here to go to the NSW Fair Trading website on residential parks. NSW Fair Trading is part of the NSW Government.

7E.3.7: Where to find more information and support as a tenant

Contact Tenants’ Union of NSW local service, if you would like information about your rights and responsibilities, or advice about your tenancy status. Click here to find you nearest service.

Click here for the NSW Fair Trading webpage for tenants.

Legal Aid NSW has a housing law team, and you can contact Legal Aid NSW by calling 1300 888 529.

*Mobile phone calls to freecall numbers (numbers starting with 1800) and to Local call numbers (numbers starting with 1300) are charged to the caller at the usual mobile rate.

7E.4: Your rights as a tenant if you are experiencing domestic violence

There are a number of legal protections for you if you are a tenant experiencing domestic violence.

If you or your dependent child are experiencing domestic violence, you can end your tenancy immediately and you will not be penalised (for example, you will not be charged a break fee). You just need to give a domestic violence termination notice to the landlord or their agent with one of the following types of evidence:

  • certificate of the perpetrator’s conviction
  • family law injunction
  • provisional, interim or final Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO); or
  • declaration made by a medical practitioner.

There are privacy protections for the information you provide with a domestic violence termination notice to your landlord or their agent. For example, your landlord cannot list you on a tenant on a tenancy database if you ended a tenancy in circumstances of domestic violence.

You also need to provide a domestic violence termination notice to other co-tenants.

If the perpetrator is a co-tenant and there is a final ADVO that excludes the perpetrator from accessing the property, their co-tenancy will automatically end. The tenancy simply transfers to any remaining co-tenant(s) named on the agreement. If there is a remaining occupant who is not named on the agreement, they can ask the landlord or agent to have the agreement put in their name.

You cannot be held responsible for any damage to the property by the domestic violence perpetrator.

For more information about what to do if you are a tenant experiencing domestic violence, see this NSW Fair Trading webpage.

7E.5: Rent support

Housing NSW can provide practical as well as financial help to people who are searching or applying for private rental housing.

7E.5.1: Information about private rental housing

Housing NSW has a training package, Rent it Keep it, to help people develop the skills they need to get into the private rental market and to keep their private rental housing. Click here for more information about this.

If you would like to make a direct enquiry, you can contact Department of Communities and Justice Housing Contact Centre by:

Phone: 1800 422 322*
Email: feedback@facs.nsw.gov.au

Or visit your nearest Housing NSW office.

The Tenants’ Union of NSW also has a range of fact sheets covering essential information that all tenants should know, including the rights and responsibilities of tenants in different types of accommodation, and how to deal with common tenancy issues, such as repairs and maintenance, and access and privacy. Click here to view the Tenants’ Union of NSW fact sheets available.

Mobile phone calls to freecall numbers (numbers starting with 1800) and to Local call numbers (numbers starting with 1300) are charged to the caller at the usual mobile rate.

7E.5.2: Financial help – Rentstart

Housing NSW may be able to help you through Rentstart if you have found somewhere to rent privately but you need financial help with the bond or advance rent. Click here to check if you are eligible.

Rentstart provides a range of financial help, including:

  • Rentstart Bond Loan: an interest-free loan to help people start a private rental tenancy
  • Advance Rent: extra financial support for people in crisis to establish a private rental tenancy
  • Rentstart Move: help for tenants who need to move if they become not eligible for public housing
  • Tenancy Assistance: short-term financial support for people in rental arrears facing eviction; and
  • Temporary Accommodation: short-term support for people facing homelessness.

For information about Rentstart’s eligibility criteria or how Rentstart can help, click here to go to the Housing NSW web page or visit your nearest Housing NSW office. Click here to find your nearest Housing NSW office.

You can also apply for RentStart through the MyHousing app. This app allows you to view your housing information, make simple account transitions, applications and appeals, request non-urgent repairs and notify the Department of Communities and Justice of a change in your circumstances.

7E.6: Crisis accommodation

Crisis accommodation includes refuges, shelters and other short to medium-term accommodation for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Much of this accommodation is provided by agencies funded under the National Affordable Housing Agreement. Along with accommodation, these agencies often provide support services such as health, counselling and living skills development.

Most residents of crisis accommodation are boarders or lodgers, but depending on the circumstances, some may be tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW).

Crisis accommodation providers usually have policies about the types of people for whom they will provide accommodation, for example, some refuges will accommodate only women and children. Crisis accommodation services must not unlawfully discriminate against people, including on grounds of mental illness. Crisis accommodation providers usually have house rules that residents must obey, for example, no alcohol on the property, or no visitors to the property.

7E.6.1: Where to find information about crisis accommodation

The services below can help you find crisis accommodation:

  • Link2Home provides information, assessment and referrals to homelessness services across NSW. They can be contacted on twenty four (24) hours a day on 1800 152 152 (free call*).
  • Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program: if you are experiencing domestic and family violence, this free and state-wide service can provide you with information about the crisis accommodation options for you in your area.
    Call 1800 WDVCAS or 1800 938 227 (free call*) during business hours.
  • Tenants’ Union of NSW can provide you with information about your rights and responsibilities, or advice about your tenancy status in crisis accommodation. Click here to find you nearest service.

*Mobile phone calls to freecall numbers (numbers starting with 1800) are charged to the caller at the usual mobile rate.

7E.7: Home and community care

7E.7.1: What is the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP)?

The Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) provides basic home support for older people who need assistance to keep living independently at home and in their community. For example, they can provide pre-made meals, help with personal care such as showering and/or help with domestic chores.

Carers of these consumers will also benefit from services provided through the CHSP. For example, CHSP workers may care for the older person so that the carer can have a break.

CHSP aims to deliver timely, high quality support services, taking into account individual goals, preferences and choices, to help frail older people stay in their homes as long as they can and wish to do so.

7E.7.2: Who is eligible for Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP)?

People are eligible for CHSP depending on their age and their needs. People aged 65 years or older, or Aboriginal people aged 50 years or older, may be eligible. Their carers may also be eligible.

All consumer and carer requests for care are directed through the My Aged Care gateway. The My Aged Care Contact Centre will ask the prospective consumer several questions as part of initial screening to identify their level of need and will refer them to a face-to-face assessment. For consumers with low level support needs that could be met by CHSP, the assessment will be conducted by Regional Support Services.

CHSP workers are more empowered to work in partnership and make decisions about their care through a wellness approach. This means that staff work with consumers rather than working for them.

To find out if you are eligible, you call My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 (free call*) or you can organise an assessment online.

*Mobile phone calls to freecall numbers (numbers starting with 1800) are charged to the caller at the usual mobile rate.

7E.7.3: How much will it cost to get Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP)?

Each CHSP service provider has its own policy on fees, but most require a small contribution depending on the person’s situation. Special consideration is given to people with limited finances.

Click here to get a general estimate of your fees.

To find more information about My Aged Care click here.

7E.8: Housing and Accommodation Support Initiative (HASI) and Community Living Supports (CLS)

The Housing and Accommodation Support Initiative (HASI) and Community Living Supports (CLS) are state-wide programs providing support to people who have a severe mental health conditions, so that they can live and participate in the community, in the way that they want to.

They are partnership programs between the NSW Government and the non-government sector. These programs work to ensure stable housing is linked to specialist support for people with mental health conditions.

The amount of CLS support you can receive is flexible. Some people might need only a few hours of support a week while some HASI consumers might get more than 5 hours support a day.

HASI recognises that people with mental health conditions can experience severe barriers to accessing affordable, safe and secure housing, and that access to appropriate support services are strongly linked to stable housing for people with mental health conditions.

HASI aims to assist people with mental health conditions who need accommodation support to:

  • maintain successful tenancies
  • participate in the community
  • have better access to support services
  • experience reduced hospitalisation; and
  • improve overall quality of life.

7E.8.1: What can the Housing and Accommodation Support Initiative (HASI) do?

HASI support helps people to achieve their own, unique goals. The types of support people receive depends on their individual needs and what they want to achieve. For example, people in the program often get help with:

  • daily living skills like shopping, looking after finances, cooking or catching public transport
  • remembering mental and physical health appointments, medications and other treatments
  • meeting people in the local community and participating in social, leisure or sporting activities
  • learning new skills
  • accessing education or help to get a job
  • moving from a hospital or a prison back to home; and
  • accessing other supports like drug or alcohol services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Like HASI, people in the CLS program work with a support worker from a community organisation, a clinician from the local mental health service and their family or other important people in their life to develop their own unique support plan.

7E.8.2 Who is eligible for HASI or CLS?

You may be eligible for HASI or CLS support if you:

  • are sixteen (16) years or older
  • have a diagnosis of a mental illness which causes you some difficulties in your day to day life
  • live or are staying in a local area for some time so you can meet regularly with your support provider; and
  • want to access this sort of program where you receive help to develop and achieve your goals.

Your local provider can give you more information about the criteria for the program.

7E.8.3 Are there any priority groups for the program?

All people referred to HASI or CLS are assessed according to their need. However, when there are limited vacancies, priority will be given to people who meet the eligibility criteria and:

  • are having to stay in hospital for longer than they need to because of their high support needs
  • whose social housing is at risk because they need more support to manage their severe mental illness
  • are coming out of a prison or in contact with the community justice system (like a person on parole or someone who is serving a community-based detention order)
  • are living in a boarding house; and/or
  • are Aboriginal.

7E.8.4 How much support can I get it?

The amount of support you can receive depends on what you need. Some people might need only a few hours of support a week, while some consumers might receive more than five (5) hours support a day. The amount of support can also change to meet your needs. When things are going well, you may only need a few hours of support a week. However, there may be times when you are finding things difficult or distressing and it would be helpful to get more support.

7E.8.5: Where can I get more information about the program?

Your local HASI or CLS provider can provide you with more information, including how to access or refer someone into the program.

You can contact your local HASI provider here or your CLS provider here.

If you are unsure about which local health district you are in, further information can be found at the Local Health Districts and Specialty Networks.

7E.9: Protected tenants

A very small number of tenants are not covered by the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW), and are instead covered by the Landlord and Tenant Amendment Act 1948 (NSW). These tenants are often called ‘protected tenants’ because the Landlord and Tenant Amendment Act 1948 (NSW) contains strong protections against evictions and rent increases. Protected tenants are almost always older persons, having lived long-term in their rented premises. In some instances, a protected tenancy may be inherited by another household member.

The law on protected tenancies is complex. You should get advice if you are unsure about whether you are a protected tenant. If you are a protected tenant, you should get advice before vacating or leaving your accommodation temporarily (for example, to go into hospital or a residential rehabilitation treatment facility). You can do so by contacting your local Tenants and Advice Advocacy Service.

7E.10: Discrimination and accommodation

It is generally against the law to discriminate against a person in relation to housing or accommodation because the person, or an associate of the person (such as a household member) has a disability (including a mental health condition). Unlawful discrimination could include refusing housing or accommodation to a person, terminating a person’s tenancy or setting different conditions for a person because they have a disability. For example, it would be unlawful for a landlord to charge a higher bond, or offer shorter tenancy term because the renter had a serious mental health condition.

There are some instances in which discrimination because of a person’s disability is lawful. These include where:

  • it would cause the accommodation provider unjustifiable hardship to accommodate the person (including where the person requires special services and facilities, and it would cause unjustifiable hardship to provide these);
  • the accommodation is provided by a not-for-profit body for people with a particular disability that the person does not have; or
  • the accommodation provider (or a relative of the provider) lives in the accommodation, and the accommodation is to be shared with fewer than six (6) people.

There are laws and regulations relating to discrimination in the provision of accommodation under both the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW), for which the Anti-Discrimination NSW is responsible, and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth), for which the Australian Human Rights Commission is responsible. Each of these agencies investigates complaints of discrimination and attempts to conciliate between parties.

Complaints to the ADB should be made within twelve (12) months of the actions that you believe were unlawful discrimination. Complaints to the AHRC should be made six (6) months of the actions that you believe were unlawful discrimination. You should ask the ADB or AHRC for more information about the time limit that applies for your particular complaint.

If you think you have been discriminated against, you should get legal advice. You can get free legal advice about discrimination from a range of places. Click here to find out more.

7E.11: Tenancy dispute resolution

The main organisation that deals with disputes about accommodation in NSW is the Consumer and Commercial Division of NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). NCAT is not as formal as a court, but its decisions are legally binding and enforceable. It deals with disputes between:

  • landlords and tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW);
  • park operators and residents under the Residential Parks Act 1998 (NSW); and
  • owners and residents under the Retirement Villages Act 1999 (NSW).

Boarders and lodgers may also be able to have some disputes dealt with by the NSW Consumer and Commercial Division of NCAT.

At a NCAT hearing, the disputing parties cannot be represented by lawyers without the permission of the NCAT. However, landlords are often represented at the NCAT by the real estate agents, who are likely to be quite familiar with the process. NCAT may appoint a representative for people who are unable to represent themselves due to disability or age. Otherwise, you can get legal advice by contacting your nearest Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service. They provide free, independent information, advice and advocacy to tenants throughout New South Wales.

Click here to find your nearest Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service or click here to contact Legal Aid NSW.

For more information about the Consumer and Commercial Division of NCAT and what it does, click here.

To contact the Consumer and Commercial Division of NCAT:

Telephone: 1300 006 228 (select Option 1)
Website: www.cc.ncat.nsw.gov.au

Click here to find out about locations of NCAT (Sydney City; Liverpool; Penrith; Wollongong; Newcastle; Tamworth).

See below for information about how to apply to have your dispute dealt with by the Consumer and Commercial Division of NCAT.

7E.11.1: Applying for your dispute to be dealt with by the Consumer and Commercial Division of NCAT

To lodge your complaint or dispute with the Consumer and Commercial Division of NCAT, you need to complete an application form and send it to NCAT with the required payment. This can be done online, by post or in person.

If you would like to lodge an application by post or in person, you can download the form at the NCAT website.

Alternatively, you can also get a copy of the form from your local Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Service. Click here to find your nearest Service. The completed form should be sent to your nearest NCAT office.

To read about application fees and charges, click here.

Eligible pensioners receive a 25% discount for the full fee for the lodgement of any general application, administrative review application, internal appeal application, set aside application or external appeal application.

You can apply for your application to be free if you can prove that paying the fee will cause you hardship.

The fee must be paid with an application, and if you are eligible for a fee concession, copies of the relevant documents must be sent with the application. If the relevant fee and documents are not submitted, your application may be dismissed.

The section below outlines what will happen after you have made your application to the NCAT.

To look at how much NCAT fees are, click here.

7E.11.2: What happens after you have made an application to the Consumer and Commercial Division of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT)?

After you have made your application to the Consumer and Commercial Division of the NCAT, your dispute is listed for conciliation and hearing. Conciliation is a confidential alternative dispute resolution process, where you and the other party can talk about your dispute and reach an agreement. There may be a NCAT Conciliator in the room with you to assist you and the other party.

You and the other party should be sent a Notice of Conciliation and Hearing within fourteen (14) days, which tells you where and when you should attend.

For more about the conciliation process, click here to go to the NCAT web page.

The Tenants’ Union of NSW website has a fact sheet that covers essential information about lodging a dispute with the NCAT. They can also provide you with information and advice over the phone. To find the contacts to your nearest Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service, click here.

Click here to contact Legal Aid NSW.

7E.12: Getting legal advice, advocacy and support with your tenancy issue

There are a number of organisations that can provide help and advice on your tenancy. It may be useful to visit the following websites for information:

You can also find out more about getting help in Part 10 of this Manual: Complaints and disputes and getting help to resolve them.

7E.13: Dealing with problems with neighbours

Whether you own your home or you are a tenant renting your home, you have a responsibility to avoid doing things that may cause nuisance or interfere with the reasonable peace, comfort and privacy of your neighbours. This responsibility applies equally to you as well as to your neighbours, and is usually set out in your tenancy agreement (if you are a tenant).

Disputes with a neighbour can cause people significant stress over time, particularly if there is prolonged conflict or the conflict escalates.

When neighbours are upset about each other’s behaviour, there are several ways to deal with the problem, and these are discussed on the following pages.

7E.13.1: How to deal with non-violent disputes

Disputes with neighbours may or may not involve violence. Examples of behaviour or actions that are non-violent, but may nevertheless be concerning to the neighbours, include:

  • loud noise, especially at night
  • trespassing (this is when someone enters another person’s property without their permission, or when someone has been asked to leave by the owner but refuses to do so)
  • damaging a shared fence
  • routinely putting objects into the neighbour’s home or property (such as routinely throwing a ball into the neighbour’s backyard or your pet regularly entering your neighbour’s yard); and/or
  • plants that have grown into the neighbour’s property.

In the first instance, you should always try to raise the issue with your neighbour calmly and reasonably in person and try to reach an agreed solution.

If this is not effective, you could try to write to your neighbour outlining your concerns. Your letter should include any relevant details such as the date that the event causing you concern happened, a proposed solution and the date by which you would like your neighbour to reply. You should keep a copy of this letter for your own records. For template letters on common issues such as noise complaints or fencing complaints, see here.

For tips on how to deal with minor problems between neighbours, go to the Community Justice Centres’ website.

The Law Society of New South Wales also has a webpage about the common problems people have with their neighbours and your legal rights in relation to these problems. To view the online fact sheet, click here.

7E.13.2: Using mediation to resolve neighbour disputes

If you and your neighbour have tried to talk about the issue, but still can’t reach an agreed solution, you can take the dispute to a Community Justice Centre. At Community Justice Centres, there are trained mediators who can help you and your neighbour discuss the issue and reach a settlement in a safe and neutral environment.

The mediator’s role is to help you understand each other’s point of view. Mediators do not to judge who is right or wrong and they cannot impose any punishment.

Mediation at a Community Justice Centre is free and is voluntary, but it can only work if both disputing parties agree to attend the mediation. Legal representation is normally not required in mediation, though it is often a good idea to talk to a lawyer to find out about your rights and have your legal questions answered before you go to a mediation session. Settlements reached through mediation are made in ‘good faith’ and are not legally enforceable.

If mediation does not work, the Community Justice Centre may be able refer you on to another relevant agency to help you.

If you would like more information about mediation, how it works and how to access the service, click here to go to the Community Justice Centre’s website or call 1800 990 777 (free call*).
Office hours: Monday to Friday, 9am to 4:30pm.
Email: cjc@justice.nsw.gov.au

*Mobile phone calls to freecall numbers (numbers starting with 1800) are charged to the caller at the usual mobile rate.

7E.13.3: What to do if the problem threatens your safety

If your neighbour is harassing you, damaging your property or behaving in ways that make you feel unsafe, such as making threats of violence against you, you should contact the police. Depending on the actual problem, the police may apply for an Apprehended Violence Order against your neighbour or may even charge your neighbour for a criminal offence. To read more about Apprehended Violence Orders, click here.

If you are the person being complained about, you can contact LawAccess on 1300 888 529* for free legal advice or referral.

*Mobile phone calls to local call numbers (numbers starting with 1300) are charged to the caller at the usual mobile rate.

7E.13.4: Neighbour problems in public housing

The information on earlier pages about how to handle problems with neighbours applies to anyone who has neighbours. If you live in public housing, Housing NSW also has a policy about being a good neighbour, which forms part of the During a Tenancy Policy. Click here to read the During a Tenancy Policy.

Generally, if the problem is minor and does not involve violence, Housing NSW encourages neighbours to sort out their dispute directly or through mediation at a Community Justice Centre. You can contact your local Housing NSW office if you would like to be referred to a Community Justice Centre for mediation.

For more about resolving a dispute with your neighbour directly, click here.

For more about using mediation to resolve a dispute with your neighbour, click here.

If the problem is severe, for example, there is harassment, intimidation, violence or drugs involved, you should report it to the police and then to your local Housing NSW office.

For more information on how Housing NSW responds to complaints, click here to go to its webpage to download the fact sheet, ‘Client Feedback’.

If you are the person being complained about, and you want advice on how to deal with the complaint, you should contact your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service. Click here to locate the contacts of your nearest Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service.

Legal Aid NSW has a housing law team, and you can contact Legal Aid NSW by calling 1300 888 529 or visit the website.

*Mobile phone calls to freecall numbers (numbers starting with 1800) and to Local call numbers (numbers starting with 1300) are charged to the caller at the usual mobile rate.

Updated May 7, 2020