May case study: Eviction

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    • #34838

      This case has been deidentified, dates and names have been changed to place the scenario in todays frame of reference.

      Single mother Mia is the primary carer for her 8-year-old son, Josh. Mia and Josh live in a social housing property on a fixed term tenancy that began 1 October 2018 and will expire on 30 September 2021. Mia is the principal tenant and she pays $65.10 rent per week. Josh attends the local public school and does well in his classroom activities.

      Since early 2020, Mia has had a Domestic Violence Order (protection order) in place against her former partner Nathan. .Mia has been particularly upset by Nathan’s release from prison this year and she feels at risk of possible harm and abuse by him, despite the protection order being in place.

      Complaints have been made by nearby residents to the social housing provider about Mia’s objectionable behaviour, involving excessive noise (loud music played at night) domestic disturbances, abusive language, threatening behaviour and residents’ concerns for her son Josh. Mia asserts that a couple of the neighbours have a “vendetta” against her. Complaints have been received sporadically across the duration of Mia’s tenancy, however a door knock was undertaken by the social housing provider in January 2021 where more complaints were received.

      Over the duration of Mia’s tenancy, the police have attended the property 41 times. About half of these police callouts were made at the request of the social housing provider, which had concerns about the potential for violence or intimidation from Mia’s ex-partner Nathan if he were to come onto the property in breach of the protection order. The rest of the callouts were as a result of Mia’s objectionable behaviour and were made by her neighbours who took offence to Mia’s erratic behaviour. Mia receives regular support from a psychologist and a local family support agency where she has established relationships with the social work team. She has some insight into her behaviour. Mia reliably attends her appointments.

      The social housing provider recently issued two notices concerning objectionable and anti-social behaviour. One is dated 14 October 2019: Warning Notice about anti-social behaviour at your property; and the second is dated 18 January 2021: Notice to Remedy Breach (other than rent arrears), including a Form 11.

      Mia entered into an Acceptable Behaviour Agreement on 17 January 2021. After signing the Agreement some of her behaviour did change for the better, including stopping playing loud music. However, Mia continued to be aggressive to some of her neighbours and to abuse and swear at her son Josh. After receiving further complaints from neighbouring tenants.

      You are the social housing provider. We have the Queensland Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld), what do you do next?

      Highlight the important elements of the case and identify the human rights engaged in this scenario.

    • #34859

      There are 23 rights identified in the Act. Which would need to be considered when deciding on Mia’s tenancy situation?
      We have highlighted those that need specific consideration in this situation?
      Recognition and equality before the law
      Right to life
      Protection from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
      Freedom from forced work
      Freedom of movement
      Freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief
      Freedom of expression
      Peaceful assembly and freedom of association
      Taking part in public life
      Property rights
      Privacy and reputation
      Protection of families and children
      Cultural rights—generally
      Cultural rights—Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples
      Right to liberty and security of person
      Humane treatment when deprived of liberty
      Fair hearing
      Rights in criminal proceedings
      Children in the criminal process
      Right not to be tried or punished more than once
      Retrospective criminal laws
      Right to education
      Right to health services

      Act: Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld)

    • #34980

      This case was discussed at Q-Shelter’s June Learning Exchange, here is a summary of this discussion.

      When giving consideration, it is important to focus on the purpose of a decision or action. Participants of Q-Shelter’s May Learning Exchange determined the housing provider’s primary purpose was to secure the stability of Mia and Josh at their current location while also ensuring the safety and security of neighbours.

      It was thought that the service provider needed to make sure Mia and Josh maintained their existing connections to mental health and education support services while receiving additional support to sustain the tenancy. It was also agreed that the service provider should talk to Mia and Josh’s neighbours to seek their understanding and identify their expectations.

      When challenged with the question—what if the housing provider manager said, “We should evict these tenants. In these circumstances, we have always evicted, why wouldn’t we do that now?”—participants gave consideration to an eviction action.

      Although an eviction notice could be lawfully issued under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (Qld), participants strongly agreed that Mia and Josh’s human rights would be significantly limited if evicted. Moving house would disrupt both their access to stable health services and Josh’s education as well as limit their right to Section 26: Protection of Families and Children of the Act, especially if they became homeless.

      Participants thought that, in the circumstances, an eviction would not be necessary as there were less restrictive interventions that could be taken to support Mia and Josh and help sustain their tenancy. Overall, when considering the full facts, the benefits of achieving neighbour’s right to privacy and security did not outweigh the harm caused to Mia and Josh through eviction in this particular situation.

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