Ombudsman findings long overdue, welcome recognition of systemic issues with maintenance claims against public housing tenants

After advocating for investigation into the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) management of public housing for over a decade, Tenants Victoria is strongly supportive of the Victorian Ombudsman’s recommendations to improve management practices within the sector.

A report published by Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass on Monday found that DHHS was “failing to live up to its commitment as a ‘social landlord’ and wasting public resources through its inept management claims at the end of public housing tenancies”.

With the support of several housing sector organisations including Tenants Victoria, a number of systemic issues were uncovered including:

  • A default practice of raising significant maintenance claims against former tenants whilst failing to take into account fair wear and tear, depreciation and other special circumstances such as family violence, mental and physical illness or evidence of third-party damage
  • Sending letters advising former tenants of claims against them to addresses the Department knows are no longer correct
  • Failing to negotiate with tenants or their advocates on the best possible outcome
  • In effect outsourcing its responsibilities to determine a debt to VCAT, wasting public resources and breaching its responsibility as a Model Litigant
  • Withholding future housing from former tenants until a payment plan is agreed to

“This report is long overdue recognition that the State, as a public housing landlord, is not doing the right thing by public housing tenants,” says Tenants Victoria CEO, Mark O’Brien.

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