It was an ordinary day at the Dandenong Duty Service for our tenancy advocate. She was sitting at the back of the court observing proceedings when she noticed a young woman enter the court with her child in a pram. The woman took at seat at the bar table and stayed silent, while the member read the material and directed all his questions at the agent. Just as he was about to make a possession order as the current rent arrears stood at approximately $3,500, the duty advocate stood up and alerted him to the fact that the tenant had arrived late and was in fact in Court. The Member had not noticed her and the agent had failed to acknowledge her. As the tenant was clearly distressed the Member allowed the matter to be stood down at the Duty Advocate’s request so the tenant could receive assistance.
While the advocate took instructions she discovered that the tenant, Matilda, was a sole parent with four dependent children, her only income was Centrelink benefit. One of her children had been quite ill recently and had been hospitalized numerous times in the last few months. As a result Matilda was struggling financially and had fallen behind in her rent.
However, Matilida advised the duty advocate that there had been a miscalculation with her Centrelink payments and she was due to receive a substantial sum tomorrow. She had brought proof that a payment of $2500 was going to be deposited into her account the following day. With this information the Advocate was able to negotiate with the agent that, if Matilda agreed to an Order by Consent, a lump sum of $2,000 would be paid the next day along with an agreed payment plan in which $25 was paid in addition to weekly rental payments until rent was up to date and in advance.
Although the agent argued strongly that Matilida had be given ample opportunity to pay the arrears the member proceeded to make an order in the terms negotiated by PCLC’s Advocate. Needless to say, Matilda was very relieved that the Advocate had not only noticed her plight but had been able to negotiate a resolution that did not leave Matilida and her children homeless.