Complaints and appeals

1. Purpose

The purpose of the Complaints policy is to outline how BlueCHP will:

  • Deal with complaints from applicants, tenants, service providers, tenants of service providers, stakeholders, and neighbouring residents.
  • Identify key principles for complaint investigations
  • Identify the difference between a complaint and an appeal

2. Scope

This policy applies to complaints received from applicants, tenants, service providers, tenants of service providers, stakeholders and neighbours of BlueCHP properties.

3. Definitions

Tenant –  is the person who signed the Residential Tenancy Agreement.

Household Members – are other people who have been authorised by BlueCHP to reside at the property.

Complaint –  A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction made by an applicant, tenant, service providers, tenants of service providers, stakeholder or neighbour regarding the behaviour of another person.

Service Provider – Community Housing organisations that manage properties on behalf of BlueCHP. These include but are not limited to,  Argyle Community Housing, Southern Cross Community Housing, Wentworth Community Housing and Hume Community Housing.

Service Complaint –  A service complaint is any expression of dissatisfaction made to BlueCHP regarding the services we provide, including those delivered by contractors. For example, a service complaint may relate to:

  • our customer service, including things such as the way we speak to or treat people or the timeliness of our responses and actions
  • the content or implementation of our standards, policies or procedures
  • the quality of work performed by a contractor

Complainant – The person making the complaint.

Appeal – An appeal is a request to have a decision made by BlueCHP reviewed.

4. Policy Statement

Applicants, tenants, service providers, tenants of service providers, stakeholders and neighbours have a right to complain and will not be disadvantaged or penalised for lodging a complaint.

BlueCHP will:

  • adopt a transparent and objective approach in receiving, investigating and responding to complaints
  • use the outcomes and learnings from complaints in our continuous improvement approach to service delivery
  • welcomes the involvement of tenant advocates, family members or other supports at any point in the complaints process

5. Complaints

5.1 Lodging a complaint

A complaint may be made in person, by email, letter, or telephone or by completing a Complaint Form or by contacting our office. Staff will assist applicants, tenants, service providers, tenants of service providers, stakeholders, and neighbours to make a complaint. This may include information on how to make a complaint and the provision of interpreter or hearing services as required. If an applicant, tenant, stakeholder or neighbour is dissatisfied with a response to our quality of service received they should lodge a ‘service complaint’ as soon as possible.

5.2 Records of complaints

All complaints will be recorded in the electronic Complaints, Register. If the complaint is a tenant, then the complaint will also be noted in the tenant’s general notes in our information system. Complaints will be treated as confidential, unless the information is required or authorised to be disclosed by law or unless the complainant consents to the disclosure. Complaints will only be discussed with employees as required for the purpose of investigating the complaint. Serious complaints about BlueCHP employees will be treated as confidential, referred to management for investigation, and records kept in the employee’s personnel file.

5.3 Standards in responding to complaints

Complaints will be formally acknowledged in writing within 5 working days of receipt by BlueCHP. The process of investigating and reviewing a complaint will take no longer than 21 working days from the date of receipt. If a delay is likely to occur, BlueCHP will notify the complainant of the expected timeframe and the reasons for this.  BlueCHP will notify all complainants as to the outcome of their complaint where an investigation is undertaken. If the matter falls within the jurisdiction of the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), the complainant will be informed immediately of any time limits that apply to making an application to have the matter heard and where they can seek advice or assistance

5.4 Investigating complaints

General principles

Tenancy Managers are delegated to investigate and respond to most complaints. However, the following complaints must be immediately referred to management when they are received:

  • complaints that are of a serious or persistent nature
  • complaints relating to alleged violence or criminal activity
  • complaints that are ‘service complaints’
  • complaints that have the potential to damage the reputation of BlueCHP

The following general principles apply in respect of BlueCHP’s complaint investigation process:

  • Early intervention and resolution of complaints is important so that a matter does not escalate further
  • Our aim is to work with complainants and the person being complained about to reach outcomes that sustain tenancies and promote good relationships
  • It is important to obtain specific and detailed factual information from the complainant regarding the nature of their complaint

Investigations will be undertaken proportionate to the nature of the complaint, but may involve:

  • interviews with the complainant, the person complained about, and/or neighbours,
  • consideration of previous complaints and tenancy history
  • contact with known support services for tenants where there is consent to exchange information
  • request for information from NSW Police or other authorities
  • BlueCHP will consider all information available at the time of making the complaint and will be transparent and objective in considering this information
  • Complainants details will be kept confidential unless they give permission to disclose their identity
  • Anonymous complaints will be investigated at the sole discretion of BlueCHP

5.5 Complaints by neighbours about tenants

General complaints by neighbours regarding tenants of BlueCHP will be investigated to determine whether a breach of the lease agreement has occurred. Where a possible breach has been identified, BlueCHP:

  • will ensure that the tenant complained about is advised of the breach, be given a reasonable opportunity to respond to the complaint and to remedy the breach
  • will identify options to help support the tenant to sustain their tenancy, including the provision of advice about support services or referral to social services with the tenant’s consent
  • may take action in the NCAT to establish specific performance orders in respect of a tenant’s lease responsibilities
  • may take action to end the tenancy where the breach is serious, intentional or reckless, and/or persistent.

It is not the role of community housing to resolve all neighbourhood disputes. Where the complaint is made is of a minor nature and does not relate to a breach of the tenant’s lease (i.e. is more akin to a ‘neighbourhood dispute’), BlueCHP may refer the matter to an NSW Community Justice Centre for mediation or to NSW Police as appropriate.

5.6 Complaints involving violence or criminal activity

It is not the role of community housing to carry out criminal investigations. Complainants who allege violence or criminal activity will be immediately referred to NSW Police. BlueCHP may access information from NSW Police under our ‘record of understanding’ (see cl. 5.8 below) to determine whether a breach of the lease agreement has occurred. Where a complaint involves violence, BlueCHP will act more quickly and investigate within an appropriate timeframe (normally 2 days). Victims of domestic violence will be treated with sensitivity and respect.

In general, action should be taken against the violent person rather than relocating the victim; however, sometimes a victim of violence may need the option to relocate either permanently (i.e. transfer) or temporarily. Our first priority is to ensure that tenants do not remain in an ‘at risk’ situation.

5.7 Service complaints

All complaints relating to BlueCHP’s service delivery (‘service complaints’) will be immediately directed to management for investigation. Complaints received relating to the service provided by Service Providers will be considered a service complaint and directed to management for investigation. Complaints relating to the actions of individual staff will be treated confidentially and details of the complaint kept on the staff member’s personnel file.

Any complaints received by the Chief Executive Officer or a Director will be immediately referred to the Chairperson of the Board of Directors. The Chairperson will determine the most appropriate course of action, including whether referral to the Registrar of Community Housing is warranted.

5.8. Obtaining Police Information

BlueCHP has a ‘record of understanding’ with NSW Police that enables community housing providers to access police records in respect of a tenant or BlueCHP property. The purpose of any referral for ‘ROU’ information is to determine whether a breach of a tenant’s lease has occurred. This may include, for example, alleged use of premises for illegal activity or antisocial behaviour.

Where it is reasonable in the circumstances, BlueCHP will make use of the ‘record of understanding’ with NSW Police to determine whether a breach of the lease has occurred. All requests must be approved by management and information received is treated as confidential, unless required to be disclosed by law or for use in the NCAT.

5.9 Reporting

All service related complaints will be reported to the BlueCHP Board on a regular basis.

5.10 Feedback

BlueCHP will adopt mechanisms to seek feedback from complainants on their experience of the complaints process. Any feedback received will be used to guide service improvement.

5.11 Corruption

If a complaint involves allegations of corrupt conduct, the matter will be referred to the Chief Executive Officer. All such information will be treated in a confidential manner.

5.12 Other avenues

If a complainant is dissatisfied with the initial response provided by BlueCHP, then there are other avenues that complainants may pursue. These include:

  • Contacting the Tenants Advice Line or Central Sydney Aboriginal Tenants Service.
  • Lodging a complaint with the Federation of Housing Associations, who will address complaints against community housing providers who are signed up to the Code of Practice
  • Lodging a complaint with the Registrar of Community Housing in respect of performance against the regulatory code.
  • Lodging a complaint with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board where a complainant believes they have been discriminated against on the basis of gender, race, age, marital status, sexual preference, or disability.
  • Making an application to the NSW Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

5.13 Legislative and Regulatory Framework

  • Residential Tenancies Act 2010

5.14 Staff Training

All staff will receive training in relation to this policy.