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Helping domestic violence victims

19 February 2018

One real estate agent is helping to change the lives of victims of domestic violence by providing them with accommodation.

Alexandra Haggarty, managing director of First National David Haggarty in Maitland, has created a Domestic Violence Rapid Rehousing Partnership to help create ‘better outcomes for property managers, landlords, tenants and the community’.

However, Alexandra’s work in helping survivors of domestic violence came about by pure chance after discovering one of her tenants had been a victim. Since that day Alexandra decided she wanted to help make a difference in her community.

She explained: “The first domestic violence tenant we housed was one of the best tenants we’ve ever had because they were so grateful to have a roof over their head and a safe place for their kids.

“They had been trying to get accommodation for a long time and were facing homelessness, so they were not going to do anything to jeopardise that. It prompted me to think that we can create a program to help victims of violence and also provide exceptional service for our landlords by giving them great tenants whilst helping our community.”

As a result, Alexandra created a partnership with Carries Place who provide domestic violence and homelessness services in the Maitland and Lower Hunter area. 

They developed a formal agreement which set down ground rules and a memorandum of understanding. This includes having access to case workers for the duration of the tenancy.

Alexandra added: “Before we sign-up a tenant we have an open and honest conversation with their case worker, the tenant, and the landlord. There's a lot of services that come with domestic violence tenants, so our staff are trained by Carrie's Place on what’s available, and that helps make the landlord more comfortable. 

“It's full disclosure to the owners. They are fully aware of the circumstances for each tenant, and they make the decision to take the tenancy or not.”

Benefit to landlords

“The benefit to our landlords is they get great tenants. We've had a 100% success rate and had clients move on to second properties, found work, and who keep the property in great condition. 

“It also builds trust and the relationship in the community, with our tenants, and our landlords. 

“My husband and I own the business, and we really want to run it in a different way to a lot of traditional real estates. We want to give back, increase social responsibility, client service and trust so it adds value.

 “I'm so much more grateful for the life I have, and the marriage I have as well. We've got more respect for the open and honest relationship we've got and the trust there.”

As a result of this great work, Alexandra was nominated for the REINSW Awards for Excellence John Greig OAM Community Service Award last year.

If you or anyone you know needs help, please call 1800 737732 for counselling and support, or Lifeline on 13 11 14. 

Or to find out about the contact details for all Specialist Homelessness Services and DV Services in within NSW, call the Domestic Violence Line on 1800 656 463, or visit here.

Case studies of DV tenants rehoused

Coma to blacklisted

One of Alexandra’s recent tenants was blacklisted on TICA, the Largest Tenant Screening Service in Australia. 

Upon investigation it turned out the reason was because she was attacked by her former partner which left her in a coma for three weeks. During that time the perpetrator left the property without paying any rent, or serving notice.

She explained: “The property manager discovered that there's no rent coming in, no one at the property, and couldn’t get hold of anyone so had it made good to release and listed them both on TICA.

“When the tenant eventually came out of hospital she discovered she had no possessions, no home, and was on TICA. However, she repaid the entire debt on her own so they were able to have her removed from TICA, and now she's been in a property for four months and she's going great.”

Refugee with four children 

Alexandra explained that another one of her other clients who she rehoused had been living in one room for nine months - with four children! 

“She's also a refugee and English is not her first language, so had been facing a lot of trouble getting into the rental market.

“Any clients who have excess home wares or furniture can donate it to our boardroom which we use as storage now, and a stock list goes out to all the case workers and they can just take whatever they want. 

“Her 16-year-old son works part-time to support the family and is the cook of the family. They hadn't had a kitchen for nine months because they were in one room at the refuge and her son came to our boardroom to pick out some things and saw there was a mix master.

“His face was glowing when he saw the mix master and both I and the mum were in tears. It's nice when you're able to match the survivors to the properties and the owners.”