Hamilton couple who were told to move out after reporting unsafe asbestos removal offered new lease

REPRIEVE: Hamilton residents Steve Denshire and Melina Vargas, who were contesting a vacant possession notice at the tenancy tribunal. The couple can remain at their home after being offered a new lease. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
REPRIEVE: Hamilton residents Steve Denshire and Melina Vargas, who were contesting a vacant possession notice at the tenancy tribunal. The couple can remain at their home after being offered a new lease. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

A couple who took a real estate agency to the state’s tenancy tribunal after being told to move out of their home just two days after reporting unsafe asbestos removal have been given a reprieve, settling the dispute before a tribunal hearing. 

Hamilton resident Steve Denshire and his partner, Melina Vargas, were told in May to vacate the property they were leasing through Leah Jay Hamilton on the day they were due to sign a renewal of their lease for another 12 months.

Mr Denshire told the Newcastle Herald in June the sudden vacant possession notice they received came just two days after he reported the unsafe removal of asbestos from their property. 

A contractor supplied through the real estate, which Mr Denshire had sought credential assurances about before the work took place, removed an asbestos roof from a backyard toilet. 

Mr Denshire, a self-employed carpenter, said correct safety procedures were not followed and he made a report to Safe Work NSW. 

Two days later, a Safe Work NSW compliance officer phoned and spoke with the landlord about adhering to the code of conduct. 

Within less than an hour of that call the couple received a vacant possession notice from the real estate agency, Mr Denshire said in June. 

The real estate agency told the couple the reason for the notice was that the landlord wanted to move in. 

But, skeptical of the timing of the notice, Mr Denshire took the incident to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The couple were initially told to move out of the property by August 2, just days before they were expecting their first child. 

With the hearing then scheduled for early August, Mr Denshire said the stress took its toll on the couple. 

“We got it [the hearing] prolonged until next month because of the baby coming,” Mr Denshire said. “It wasn’t appropriate.”

However the landlord, through Leah Jay Hamilton, recently offered the couple a new lease.

First offering them a six-month option, before negotiations led to an 11-month and one-week lease. 

“It’s from the original date that it was supposed to be signed on,” Mr Denshire said.

“So it’s basically three weeks short if this didn’t happen.

“They’ve also given us a clause that we can move out whenever we want and there’ll be no lease-break penalty.” 

Mr Denshire said the incident should be an example for other renters. 

“I think the rental community feels disempowered in these sort of events,” he said.

“You can stand up for yourself and there is the process there to support renters.

“Hopefully more people feel like they can do something if there’s an injustice done.”