Belinda* was a resident of Catherine House who was referred to the lawyers from Homeless Legal for tenancy advice. Belinda had been ‘evicted’ from the rental property that she shared with another tenant, who then brought a claim against Belinda in the SACAT. The claim was worth several thousand dollars, which for Belinda, was an insurmountable and overwhelming amount. Given Belinda’s vulnerable circumstances, Nick Linke from Dentons Fisher Jeffries, acting pro bono for Homeless Legal, made an application for leave to appear on her behalf, which was granted.
At the contested hearing, Belinda’s lawyer argued (via telephone) that the claim should be thrown out on jurisdictional grounds because the agreement between the parties was a house-sharing agreement and not a residential tenancy agreement as defined in the Act. The SACAT member agreed and dismissed the application for want of jurisdiction, on the basis that an agreement under which two (or more) persons share a house and costs does not fall within the definition of a residential tenancy agreement. Freed from the shadow of looming debt, Belinda could now turn her attention to getting her life back in order with the support of Catherine House.