ACT News

Tenants who had loud, abusive fights on street win right to stay in home

A Florey couple have successfully appealed against eviction from their public housing home despite neighbours complaining of loud, aggressive arguments and of being threatened with a machete.

The pair signed the tenancy agreement for the home in 2013, but soon raised the ire of those around them.

They began having loud arguments, inside and out.

Their arguments were described as being "violent and abusive" and "containing a lot of swearing and offensive language".

Neighbours began to complain and their concerns were exacerbated by late-night fights, slamming doors, screams from the woman indicating she was being assaulted, and other disturbances.

At one point, the man threatened people in the neighbourhood with a large knife or machete.

He was charged and convicted for that crime.

In May last year, they were told to stop the behaviour, which was breaching the lease by interfering with the quiet enjoyment of the neighbourhood.

Their behaviour continued, and they were eventually told to vacate the tenancy.

in February this year, the Commissioner for Social Housing ACT applied to have the tenancy agreement terminated.

Appeal president Bill Stefaniak heard evidence from neighbours, who said the constant fighting and aggression caused them anxiousness, uncertainty, and distress.

One said his two children were anxious and spent a lot of time in their room to avoid hearing the arguments.

The woman involved in the disturbances, Camilla Inez Gottschalk-Krutsky, gave evidence that at the time she was stressed due to criminal charges laid against her and her mother.

Krutsky said the charges caused a great deal of stress.

She acknowledged they had been in the wrong, but said that things were much better now. 

Her partner, Dylan James Hutchings, acknowledged the fighting and the incident with the machete, but said the couple were working with Relationships Australia to improve.  

Regardless, Mr Stefaniak decided to terminate their tenancy.

The pair appealed in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which handed down its decision on Thursday.

The tribunal overturned the original decision to terminate their tenancy. 

Acting presidential member Christopher Chenoweth described the terminating of someone's right to occupy as home as a "serious business".

He said the tribunal must review the "capacity and willingness" of the tenants to change before taking such a step.

"There is a consistent pattern of conduct which taken as a whole amounts to a breach," Mr Chenoweth said.

"If the tenants now cease that conduct, then the breach of disturbing the quiet enjoyment of the neighbours has ceased."

He noted evidence from neighbours that the shouting and abuse had declined, and evidence from the tenants that they were taking steps to improve their behaviour.

That evidence, he found, could have led Mr Stefaniak to use his discretion not to terminate the tenancy in his original judgment.

But it was found that Mr Stefaniak did not properly explain whether he considered that issue in his reasons.

"The failure to demonstrate that these matters have been considered in my view constitutes appealable error, and accordingly upon review the decision cannot stand and should be set aside," Mr Chenoweth wrote.