Kamis, 01 November 2012

The value of TAAS

"Okay, thanks, that would be a great help… I'll wait to hear from you I guess. Goodbye".

Esmerelda put down the phone and walked back to the car. Now that she'd made the call, she could get ready to pick the kids up from school. But her mind kept returning to that all consuming question: where were they going to sleep that night?



For the past three months they'd been in and out of spare bedrooms, garages, caravan parks and motels. When the money ran out each fortnight, as it always did, she'd find them a quiet spot and they'd all curl up together in the car.

She'd all but given up looking for somewhere to rent. She was sick of all the knock-backs. It didn't seem to matter where she went - as soon as she gave out her name and details, all doors seemed to close. Esmerelda knew why - she'd been blacklisted by the last place she'd rented through. She knew this, because they sent her a letter telling her they were going to do it, just before she moved out.

She didn't think she could do anything about it. After all, she owed them all that money…

But it turned out that call she'd made was a good one.

The woman on the advice line asked her read out that letter from the real estate agent. Once she'd heard what it said, she told Esmerelda that they shouldn't have listed her in the way that they did. She'd still have to sort out whatever money that she owed, but the woman said that if she wanted them to they could write to the agent on her behalf, and point out that the listing was unlawful. They could ask for Esmerelda's name to be taken off the blacklist. Esmerelda agreed.

A couple of days later, Esmerelda received good news. The agent had contacted the woman from the advice line, and agreed to have the listing removed. She'd also sent through details of the money she owed, so that Esmerelda could start to work out a plan to pay off the debt in instalments. She'd said that as long as they could agree on a payment plan, and Esmerelda stuck to it, she would not put Esmerelda's name back on the blacklist.

"I don't know…" said Esmerelda. "I'm not sure they'll accept a plan that I'll actually be able to afford".

"Well," said the woman on the other end of the phone, "what if we talk to them again, and let them know just how much you can manage?".

***

Esmerelda is a fictional character, but her story is quite real. It was sent to us by the Central Coast Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Service - CCTAAS for short - not very long ago. It is a story that demonstrates the enormous value of Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services.

The value of TAAS is something we've talked about quite a bit over the last couple of months, as we struggle to meet the growing demand for our services. TAAS, as it is currently funded, costs each renter household in New South Wales just three cents a day. Those three cents are your three cents, because they are taken from the interest earned on your bond money, after it has been invested by the Rental Bond Board.

Your three cents a day are given to us, so that we may continue to help tenants keep themselves out of trouble. Or, help people who would really like to be tenants, but can't, due to a past, unresolved tenancy dispute. People like our Esmerelda.

Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services take thousands of calls each year, from all over New South Wales, and demand for our services is growing. Each and every one of those calls is a tenant's story.

Over the coming months, we'll be sharing some of these stories… and we'll be asking you to share yours, too. If you've ever used Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services - perhaps as a tenant looking for advice, a social worker making a referral, a tenancy manager observing the difference a good advocate can make for you tenant - and you'd like to join in this conversation, there are a couple of ways you can:

1 - Share this blog post on Facebook, or Twitter. We'll be using the hashtag #my3cents.

2 - Leave a comment on this blog, or on our Facebook page (it's also called 'The Brown Couch').

3 - Send us an email: tenants[at]tenantsunion.org.au

We look forward to hearing from you.