Jumat, 24 Juni 2011

Vale Agnes Borsody

We were sad to hear this week that Agnes Borsody, a long-time Member of the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal, has died. The sadness is shared by all at the Tenants' Union, and throughout the network of Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services.

Member Borsody was not particularly 'pro-tenant'; better than that, she was fair. Tenants advocates appearing before her couldn't always be sure of getting the orders their clients wanted, but they could be sure of getting a well-reasoned result.

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We often hear the complaint – usually by persons who have not set foot in the Tribunal, or by landlords who have failed to get what they wanted – that the Tribunal is 'pro-tenant'. Hardly. It's true that the Tribunal is better for tenants than the previous alternative – the NSW Local Court – in that tenants never asserted their legal rights in the Local Court, but they do sometimes go to the relatively accessible and inexpensive Tribunal. But landlords enjoy the Tribunal's benefits even more: their applications outnumber those by tenants by a factor of six.

The Tribunal is not 'pro-tenant': if anything, it is pro-expedition. It likes to wrap things up. In our judicial system, no court or tribunal except the NSW Local Court receives more applications, and the Tribunal gets the majority of applications listed for hearing within three weeks of lodgement, and finalises most applications at or before the first hearing. We sometimes hear of Members and conciliators who advocates say have applied undue pressure to parties – particularly tenants – to settle proceedings on terms that aren't really appropriate. We also sometimes hear of worse behaviour: Members who, faced with a seemingly uncontrollable torrent of applications, try to regain a sense of control and power by bullying the weakest persons who appear before them – again, the tenants.

Member Borsody was a terror to those who wasted the Tribunal's time with misconceived applications or foolish formality – but she directed her blasts particularly at the repeat players in the Tribunal, especially the real estate agents, the housing officers, and the tenants advocates. But even those who suffered a blast knew that she had a sense of humour. She'll be missed.