Review of the Boarding Houses Act

Submission cover sheet

  • Name of organisation or individual making this submission

    Confidentiality requested

Questions on possible options

  1. Are the objects of the Boarding Houses Act 2012 still valid? Why or why not?

    Majority of the clauses outlined in the Boarding House Act sets a solid foundation in governing the operations and supports of the boarding houses however since the transition of the NDIS, there are changes in circumstances around the framework of how boarding house residents, proprietors and stakeholders should be adjusted. The rights, standards and regulations should be reviewed and implemented reflective of safeguard frameworks. There is also conflicting information between the act and governing regulations under the safeguard for NDIS registered provider as boarding houses are often now registered as NDIS service providers in conjunction to their registration as assisted boarding houses. The information is often unclear around conflict of interest and “double dipping” when charging residents for board and lodging but also billing under registered items providing similar / same supports in the house. E.g.) meals and laundry are included in boarding and lodgings, however when boarding houses also registered for domestic care, they are also charging residents for this on top of what they already pay in their boarding and lodging.

  2. Are there any types of premises which should be included in or excluded from the Act?

    NDIS Supported Independent Living (SIL) funding properties should be excluded from the Act. This act should only govern the tiers of boarding house operations. SIL funded providers are currently governed by the NDIS Quality and Safeguard Commission where residential properties are designed to provide a “home-like” environment. The number occupancy is smaller when compared to a shared living space in a boarding house setting.

  3. Should the exclusion that currently applies to specialist disability accommodation for the purposes of the NDIS be extended to other NDIS service types, such as where residents are in receipt of SIL packages?

    The current two-tier system in NSW in comparison with the three-tier system in other states displays ambiguity around actual system process. The two-tier system outlines “General Boarding Houses” and “Assisted Boarding Houses” with brief clauses outlining its processes. The detail of this needs to be reviewed as per; • Accommodation Only • Accommodation and Meals Only • Accommodation, meals and services Of the above categories, we need clear definition and costing around how much proprietors are charging occupants based on the above. Currently occupants from different assisted boarding houses get charged different rates for the above. There is also no clear review process for occupants who require supports around financial decision making. In recent NDIS transitions, various assisted boarding house proprietors have also additionally registered as NDIS Providers, providing “in home” supports under various NDIS registration categories.

  4. What are the benefits of the two tier system in NSW? How does it compare with systems in other jurisdictions? Please provide comments.

  5. Should anything be changed in, or added to, the list of information provided to the Commissioner?

    If a boarding house is a registered provider under the NDIS, this should be reported to the commissioner as it can be deemed as a conflict of interest in services provided. There should be a clear and accurate break down of the services provided under the board and lodging. This should include: • Meals • Weekly rent • Cleaning (what does this include specifically) When registering, proprietors should undergo a national police check, working with children check and first aid. Furthermore, our overall stance is that BH should not be able to register as NDIS providers as it’s a conflict of interest. This comment more reflects the fact that proprietors are already registered under the NDIS

  6. Is the information on the public Register sufficient? Why or why not?

    The information provided is not currently sufficient, it should include: • If a BH has been closed down • Reasons for closure • The registration should remain ‘active’ or ‘available’ on the registry list for the public to be aware of this information

  7. What other information could be added to, or removed from, the public Register?

    Notification to the commission on boarding house closures should be increased to 60 days in reflection of experiences having to re-home residents at short notice to suitable accommodation.

  8. Should the Commissioner have the power to remove the details of a boarding house from the public Register under prescribed circumstances, if it has ceased to be used as a boarding house?

    All existing and expired registration should remain on the public register. Perhaps if an assisted boarding house “closes”, there is a separate section in the registry indicating past registrations and reasons for closure. It is important to keep the register transparent, to ensure that we have information accessible when needing to clarify if previous proprietors who may have been “shut down” don’t attempt to use a new name or a friend/ family’s name to “re-register”.

  9. How could we improve the local regulation of boarding houses?

    It would be our recommendation that the NSW Government appoint a team of skilled and trained enforcement officers with an active intent for ensuring compliance to the Regulation, regardless of the cost incurred by Government. A compliance program must ensure the integrity of the legislation and associated Regulations, the protection of vulnerable persons and quality outcomes for these persons and the community. We realise that the introduction of our suggestion will increase the workloads of council’s officers responsible for enforcing this Act due to the requirement to inspect and enforce planning, building and fire safety legislation and standards within the time frames. Nonetheless it is what would be required to achieve better safeguards of these residents. Consideration should be given to conduct a quarterly inspection within the first 12 months of operation. Then decided ongoing frequency depended upon findings. As per a general rental property it can be legally inspected 4 times a year. (let’s try and expand on how a general tenancy or landlord has a right to inspect their property but for a BH of up to 30 ppl is only down once a year) The department of family and community services (FACS) previously funded a Boarding House Reform Team under the Aging Disability and Homecare (ADHC) who were primarily responsible for the oversight of the wellbeing of the clients who had additional needs. They worked hand in hand with the FACS compliance team. A similar model should be adopted again to ensure the different governing bodies are all working together for the protection of the client. Whether this sits with FACS and or within local councils.

  10. Should councils be required to let NSW Fair Trading know of enforcement action against boarding houses, so that it can be recorded in the Register?

    We believe that councils should be required to inform NSW Fair Trading whenever an enforcement action is taken against a boarding house, this should be done within a certain time frame (14 days). We are proposing that this register would allow all to see records relating to these enforcements. The register should allow a section to incorporate any provisions of appeals and actions taken to rectify and as much details relating to the enforcement as possible. Consideration to be given to applying a risk matrix to measure the severity if the breach. Publishing will ensure there is transparency and the BH managers are aware that there are repercussions however this information needs to be handled sensitively for all existent residents.

  11. Are there any provisions of the Standard Occupancy Agreement which should be changed, or are any additional provisions required?

    We think the agreement should stipulate exactly what the requirements are for maintaining their tenancy and what their board and lodgings includes, currently this is inconsistent across all boarding houses. There should be processes around completing a tenancy agreement and signed by both occupant, proprietor and external witness. A copy of the signed agreement should be submitted to the register, fair trading and or other governing body to ensure all protocols are followed consistently and correctly. Tenancy agreements are to be reviewed every set duration – every 12months. This will ensure agreement is valid and up to date.

  12. Do you have any comments on the use of either the Standard Occupancy Agreement, or other occupancy agreements?

    The current standard occupancy agreement has information which is outdated- for example “security deposit”. My understanding is that assisted boarding house clients don’t provide a security deposit upon moving in to the house. Another occupancy agreement should be used with a more detailed outline of terms agreed by both proprietor and occupant- this should be the same template used for all boarding houses. Again, there should be processes around completing a tenancy agreement and signed by both occupant, proprietor and external witness. A copy for each party. A copy of the signed agreement should also be submitted to the register, fair trading and or other governing body to ensure all protocols are followed consistently and correctly. Tenancy agreements are to be reviewed every set duration – every 12months. This will ensure agreement is valid and up to date. If an occupant intending to move into a boarding house is unable to make an informed decision due to cognitive capacity, an advocate and or support person should be provided by the governing body to support them in finalising the tenancy agreement.

  13. How aware are you of the occupancy principles?

  14. Should the occupancy principles be handed separately to each resident when they enter a boarding house or is it enough to include them in the Occupancy Agreement?

  15. Should the occupancy principles be clearly displayed on a notice board in a common area in the boarding house?

  16. Are the occupancy principles useful and appropriate?

  17. Are the occupancy principles being complied with? If not, why not?

  18. Should any other information be provided to a resident when they move into a boarding house? For example, a fact sheet with information about access to outside services, such as dental, Housing NSW, casework psychologists.

  19. Should any information be provided to operators of boarding houses, for example, a fact sheet outlining their responsibilities?

    Yes- we recommend a fact sheet, or boarding house handbook which should be provided to operators outlining their roles and responsibilities. Operators should also complete training modules specifically around operating assisted boarding houses, understanding guidelines, rules and regulations. It is also recommended that they complete refresher training modules annually.

  20. Are the occupancy principle provisions for termination and notice working or are there any changes which should be made?

    The current notice period is not sufficient for occupants to seek or get support around new accommodation and transition period.

  21. Do the suggested notice periods in the Standard Occupancy Agreement constitute “reasonable notice” for terminating an agreement by either a proprietor or a resident? If not, why not?

    We feel it is not “reasonable notice” as moving accommodation can often be stressful and time consuming. Especially for individuals living with special needs. The time frame needed to find and settle into new accommodation will vary individually.

  22. Should a proprietor be required to provide a reason for terminating an agreement? Why or why not?

    Yes- there should be guidelines around reasons for termination and “warnings” if an occupant has breached house rules. There should be clear, communication from the operator to the occupant which information around notice periods.

  23. Do the current provisions provide sufficient security for residents of boarding houses?

    No – current provisions do not provide sufficient security for residents in boarding houses.

  24. How aware are you of the dispute resolution mechanisms available for house residents and proprietors?

    Our experience around dispute resolution mechanisms between operators and occupants is verbal only. Operators verbally attempt to resolve conflict and our understanding is that they complete an incident report under the guideline’s requirements. Disputes between providers are also managed and resolved using verbal communication mechanisms. The current act states that disputes can be resolved through the NCAT which is the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal- however, my understanding is the clients are not aware of this source of support for dispute resolution. We as a service provider are often encouraged to sought support from independent advocates for supports around dispute between operators and occupants. The other challenge is that the NCAT requires a fee of $49 which can often be a challenge for the occupants who are often not financially stable.

  25. How effective and appropriate are the current dispute resolution processes?

    It is effective and appropriate if occupants are aware of this service, however they often can’t afford to lodge the application for dispute review in court. Therefore, this is not appropriate when occupants need support around resolving disputes.

  26. Do you have any other suggestions to encourage the early resolution of boarding house disputes and to reduce the number of boarding house disputes?

    We recommend having a team who can assist with resolving disputes within boarding houses between operators and occupants. An independent, government funded team who specialises in managing resolutions and disputes in boarding houses, in particular when working with occupants with special needs.

  27. Is the definition of a “person with additional needs” clear? If not, why not?

    The current information around definition of a “person with additional needs” is quite brief. The definition is satisfactory however age-related frailty should be defined more clearly.

  28. Does the definition need to be more detailed?

    Yes- elaborating more on the definition of “age related frailty”

  29. Should it make reference to the Disability Support Pension as an indicator that the person may have “additional needs”?

    Yes – the disability support pension has a thorough eligibility criteria which we feel should also be included as reference to a person who may have “additional needs”

  30. Should it be linked to, or make reference to, NDIS eligibility where those NDIS funded supports are to address a disability support need which is permanent, or likely to be permanent (i.e. not a one-off package for equipment or for where the support is time limited and is not intended to be permanent)?

  31. Should it be made identical to the definition in Section 24 of the National Disability Insurance Act 2013 (with a provision to also include people with an age related disability as people aged 65 years and over are not eligible for the NDIS)?

  32. Should the present two-tiered system of “assisted” and “general” boarding houses remain unchanged, and only “assisted boarding houses”, as presently defined, be allowed to accommodate a person with “additional needs” under the legislation? Why or why not?

    The current two tier system in NSW in comparison with the three tier system in other states displays ambiguity around actual system process. The two tier system outlines “General Boarding Houses” and “Assisted Boarding Houses” with brief clauses outlining its processes. The detail of this needs to be reviewed as per; • Accommodation Only • Accommodation and Meals Only • Accommodation, meals and services Of the above categories, we need clear definition and costing around how much proprietors are charging occupants based on the above. Currently occupants from different assisted boarding houses get charged different rates for the above. There is also no clear review process for occupants who require supports around financial decision making.

  33. If you think that some general boarding houses should be allowed to accommodate some people with “additional needs” provided certain safeguards are met, what should these standards and safeguards entail?

  34. Should the general boarding house be allowed to accommodate a person with “additional needs” but only if the person has a “package” of supports such as under the NDIS, or provided by NSW Health?

  35. If the general boarding house is allowed to accommodate people with “additional needs”, should a condition of that be that they are subject to certain requirements?

  36. What other safeguards, if any, would be needed, and why?

  37. What is the impact of specifying that only one person can be the applicant to be the licensee?

    Anyone involved in the running of a BH or anyone who receives financial gains from a BH should be listed.

  38. Should corporations and companies be excluded, given that a company can be purchased and sold, in order to prevent a buyer of a company which holds a licence of an assisted boarding house circumvent the requirement to apply for a licence?

  39. Is 28 days adequate time for a licensee to give notice of closure and to allow for alternative accommodation for the residents to be secured?

    We believe that 28 days is not a feasible time frame to find appropriate alternative accommodation for residents. Speaking first hand, this time frame should be increased to a 60-day period to ensure clients are provided with options and that the right type of accommodation is arranged.

  40. When a person is asked to answer questions, should the warning be simplified to state that the person must be advised that: (a) they have the right not to answer the question or produce documents only if they believe such answers or documents will be self-incriminating; and (b) if they do choose to say anything, anything they do say may be noted; and (c) if they say anything which is self-incriminating, it may be used against them in future legal or administrative proceedings?

  41. Is the current requirement that one person be specified as an “authorised service provider” adequate? Should the definition of “authorised service provider” be broadened to include any employees of a named organisation providing services to an assisted boarding house?

    This doesn’t fit in with most service providers working within BH. We have multiple workers supporting clients, it is not always the same worker, so it would be difficult to nominate one person.

  42. Is the maximum number of 30 residents appropriate? Why or why not?

    We feel that 30 is excessive especially given the staff: client ratio. Most houses only have 1 staff member working most days and only one on sleepover.

  43. Are the current arrangements adequate in meeting privacy needs of residents?

  44. Where two residents have decided to share a bedroom, should it be enforced that an additional room not less than 7.5 square metres be set aside for the exclusive use of those two residents only?

    We think a third party should be involved when these discussions occur- how do we know that staff are offering clients a single room over a shared? We have been informed that some boarding houses such as Smiths hall has clients pay for a single room even though they are sharing.

  45. Is the current requirement of 11 square metres adequate for a room that two residents choose to share?

  46. Should there be a minimum size for the private or quiet room? If yes, what should this be?

    Quiet rooms would be a great idea however we can only think of one boarding house that has a space where clients can go and relax aside from their bedrooms. Every other house has only communal spaces.

  47. Should a minimum size for a communal living space be specified? Why or why not? If yes, should this be based on the number of residents accommodated e.g. a specified number of square metres per resident?

  48. Are the current provisions of the Act in relation to young persons adequate? Why or why not?

    We recommend precluding the accommodation of children and young people in all registered boarding houses. A policy needs to be established by joint agencies to ensure the timely exchange of this information and for the undertaking of a risk assessment of the child or young person’s accommodation in a registrable boarding house and if determined not suitable for the needs of the young person, their relocation to appropriate alternative accommodation.

  49. Is the current purpose of the Screening Tool still valid?

    The screening tool is valid if we are aware who does it- historically, Aging Disability and Homecare (ADHC) completes the screening tool for clients intending to move into the boarding house or have been referred to. Since the closure of ADHC, the screening tool process was outsourced, however over time, there is lack of communication as to updated changes such as who the contracted organisation is to complete screening tool.

  50. If an assisted boarding house resident, actual or proposed, has a package of supports which meets their needs, should he or she be considered eligible to live in an assisted boarding house regardless of their level of need? (For instance, if a person needed daily personal care but he or she had an NDIS package where he or she could purchase those supports, could this be delivered in an assisted boarding house?)

    Residents currently living in a BH can purchase self-care supports with their NDIS package, however there are restrictions/limitations around what services they are able to purchase from. Often BH are registered to provide this in house and won’t allow external providers in to do this limiting their choice and control. My experience in recent months has seen BH register for self-care under the NDIS and don’t give clients the choice and control to use other providers if they like. BH restrict services to 1 or 2 so they can better manage who comes in/out of the houses.

  51. Are the current provisions of the Act adequate in relation to abuse and neglect?

    Given there are currently no definitions regarding abuse and neglect in the act, these need to be added and clearly stated. BH residents need to be aware what constitutes ‘abuse and neglect’ and should be given the information on where to go for assistance. The act currently leaves the reporting of abuse and neglect up to the discretion of BH staff, however in some cases BH staff are the ones responsible. There should be a clear procedure and guidelines on what abuse is and where to go to report (aside from police). This reinforces our stance on a selected team of skilled workers responsible for ensuring BH are adhering to the act. Abuse and Neglect- Abuse may include: • behaviour management that is seriously inappropriate or improper • making excessive and/or degrading demands of a person with disability • hostile use of force towards a person with disability a pattern of seriously inappropriate, degrading comments or behaviour towards a person with disability

  52. Should there be a clause in the Regulation which states that in a boarding house which is authorised to accommodate a person with additional needs, a receipt for any money received from, or on behalf of that person, must be issued to the person and a copy of all such receipts kept? This includes details of the purpose of the receipt of money or payment.

    It is recommended that clients are provided with a record of money paid and received including rent, this empowers clients to take ownership of their finances and to have more control, given they have the capacity. Trustee and Guardian should have more involvement with clients that don’t have the capacity to manage their own finances rather then leave this to BH owners/managers to control. Clients are currently unaware of what rent they pay each week- a lot of client’s pensions are paid directly into BH owners accounts and they manage their finances for them. We think this should be handled by TAG as they are a third party.

  53. Should there be a clause in the Regulation which specifically covers financial exploitation? If yes, given many residents of assisted boarding houses have difficulty managing their finances, how would “exploitation” be defined and differentiated from “assistance”?

    As stated above, T&G should be more involved in assisting clients to understand their finances and to regularly review where their money is being spent. Clients in boarding houses are great risk of exploitation due to a reduced understanding of budgeting and in some cases, the fear of not having a home unless they comply with BH owner/manager demands for financial contributions. Assistance- empowering clients to manage/understand their own finances Exploitation- abusing position of power for financial gains

  54. If yes, should the clause also cover the management and delivery of the resident’s NDIS Plan?

  55. Are the current provisions of the Act in relation to record keeping adequate?

  56. Should the records required to be kept by an assisted boarding house, and which are therefore available for inspection by a Department of Communities and Justice boarding house enforcement officer, be expanded to include: a) Occupancy Agreements? b) NDIS Plans and NDIS Service Agreements? c) Payments to a service provider under the NDIS Plan? d) Any other record or document?

At our discretion we may remove parts of submissions because of length, content, appropriateness or confidentiality (privacy) reasons.