September 14th, 2023Queries on charity housing
A woman living in a unit owned by the Daylesford Ladies Benevolent Society, says she has been knocked back after asking for a permanently open louvre bathroom window to be replaced with something she can close.
Cate Graceson, pictured above left, moved into the West Street, Daylesford apartments in March and asked immediately for the window, below, to be replaced or repaired so it could be opened and closed.
Ms Graceson said the open window made the small flat freezing in winter and other residents in the complex were being forced to use towels or other materials to block the windows. She was told originally the society was prepared to negotiate with her but after three weeks received a solicitor’s letter telling her the window was legal under the definition of Consumer Affairs Victoria and the Residential Tenancy Act.
“I am a tenant and I have now had three solicitor’s letters telling me to back off. The housing here is for people over 65 so to me that means they have a higher duty of care than the Residential Tenancy Act.”
Ms Graceson said the Daylesford Ladies Benevolent Society was formed in 1860 and was an incorporated group of 10 women, two from each of the Christian churches in Daylesford. She said she had also raised the issue of no air-conditioning in the units, with the 1960-style units having floor to ceiling windows facing the north and east.
“I have been told the heat is stifling in summer. And for the past two years the Victorian Government has had numerous schemes for half-price reverse cycle units.
The society had $578,243 in its bank account at June 30, 2022 – figures available from the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profit commission website.”
Ms Graceson said her other concerns were the society not publicising their annual meetings, not having rules of incorporation and originally not supplying rental receipts. She also said she paid $6000 “key money” when she moved in “and I want my money back”. She was told the money was used for maintenance because the rents were so low.
But Ms Graceson also said she loved living at the units, was busy doing her garden, knew all the other tenants “and everyone gets on well”.
Another resident, Fae Wilson, pictured above (at right) with her small dog, moved into the units five years ago and while she had no issues herself, she was supportive of Cate’s plea for the window to be fixed.
Fae’s bathroom window, below, was retrofitted with a small glass with timber surrounds opening door before she arrived, meaning she can open or close the window.
Fae said her children had been pushing for her to ask for reverse cycle airconditioning. “It is like a sauna in summer and apparently this year is going to be really hot, so we really should have it.
“Most people in the new units opposite have it so it is just the three of us still waiting. Some people have put it in themselves but it is really expensive. I offered to pay half but I was told the committee decided that if they did that for me, they would have to do it for everyone. I thought ‘yeah…’ but they just said no. We would really have to do it soon or it will become too busy for the installation.”
A third resident, Les Pitt, said he also had a fixed louvre window but had stuffed it with towels and covered it with corflute which was “unsightly” but worked in keeping the cold out. He had been told the window would be replaced two years ago but “they haven’t got around to it”. Mr Pitt said he would also appreciate reverse cycle airconditioning but had never asked for any improvements and was very happy with his unit.
Society secretary Lyn Kinghorn told The Local the units were like a retirement village and residents could stay for life. They paid just $110 a week and the $6000 upfront key money was to help with maintenance.
Ms Kinghorn said the units were not “five-star” but were “really lovely, comfy housing” and Ms Graceson had been moved in quickly with an “urgent situation”, jumping a long waiting list. She said shortly after moving in Ms Graceson had taken the society to VCAT but her case had been dismissed when she was asked if she had inspected the unit before moving in.
“Then she immediately sent me another email saying you have to fix the window anyway, but that means doing all the windows, if we do one, we do all, and we just wouldn’t put in airconditioning, that is not our role.”
Ms Kinghorn said Ms Graceson had come in and demanded changes to what had been a very happy place for many years and it was very disappointing for the society’s volunteers to try to help people and “just get it shoved in your face”.
She said the society had checked on the housing code for windows and if they could be opened and shut, they must be able to be locked but a louvre window which could not be opened or shut, complied with the code.
“She (Ms Graceson) has come along and is trying to change the rules of the happy community in there and at times been really aggressive. We have had sometimes daily emails and complaints and she has been a handful to manage, when we are just volunteers. I am sure if you asked the other tenants they would say they are very happy to be living in such a great place.”
Ms Kinghorn said she was unsure if the society was incorporated and while they did hold AGMs they did not advertise them. The volunteer committee members were just appointed to their roles, she said. “We just follow on with what we have continually been doing.”
Words: Donna Kelly | Images: Eve Lamb