At risk of homelessness

Habib and his wife and children are Australian citizens, but were originally refugees from Afghanistan who entered the country around 8 years ago. Habib experiences an acquired brain injury as a result of violence he experienced while fleeing Afghanistan. Habib’s brain injury precludes Habib from working. Habib spends much of his time at home playing with his children or volunteering at their school, which he enjoys.

A referral was made to AMPARO Advocacy around property issues Habib and his family were experiencing. They live in private rental accommodation that is overseen or managed by a multicultural service provider. After a property inspection, Habib has been accused by his landlord of keeping the house in an unreasonable condition, and there is an indirect threat by the landlord that the family may be asked to leave the property. In addition, Habib has received a bill for over $5,000 from the multicultural service provider to remedy alleged damages he has caused to the property over a number of years. Habib is confused and very concerned that his family is about to be evicted. He also cannot afford to pay the $5,000 bill and is unsure why he has received this. The family, due to language barriers, does not understand what is going on and feel very distressed.

AMPARO Advocacy considered Habib was in a precarious position in terms of potential imminent homelessness. Through discussing the bill with Habib and his wife through a Dari interpreter, AMPARO Advocacy also ascertained that many of the items on the $5,000 damages bill were in fact not a result of damage caused by the family, but issues that had arisen in the home as a result of reasonable wear and tear that the family had raised with the multicultural service provider. Also, on examination of the property, AMPARO Advocacy observed that the property was an older property with low quality fixtures and finishing’s; and were somewhat surprised as the multicultural service provider had indicated it was a newer property. While Habib agreed to cover any costs related to damage caused by himself and his family, the family were not prepared to pay for issues to the property which they had not directly caused – but, in fact, had requested to get fixed. AMPARO Advocacy was also concerned that this bill had built up over a number of years and had not been previously addressed by the multicultural service provider.

AMPARO Advocacy supported the family to seek advice and representation from their local Tenancy Advocacy and Advice Centre, including attending appointments with them. Under the terms of their contract, the family learnt that the landlord could issue them with a notice to leave the property at any time. This placed the family in a very tenuous and difficult position in trying to negotiate to have the $5,000 bill decreased; as they were concerned that any conflict could result in a notice to leave. Through an interpreter, the family was advised of their rights to pursue the matter through the legal system.

The matter remains ongoing – a positive outcome of AMPARO Advocacy’s involvement being that when contacting the multicultural service provider the family is now represented by the Tenancy Advocacy service, which has created a greater sense of transparency and accountability around their matter. Interpreters are also being used by the Tenancy Advocacy service to clarify background facts, provide the family with advice and obtain their instructions. Importantly, the family feels they understand “what is happening”. Habib’s CRPD right to an adequate standard of living and social protection (Article 28), while still precarious, is nevertheless being protected and promoted.

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