Property owners in NSW were overjoyed in 1948 when National Security Landlord & Tenant Regulations were abandoned and rents ceased to be controlled. But not for long. The NSW Government introduced its own Landlord & Tenant Act which re-imposed all the old controls on rents and evictions and condemned Landlords and Tenants in NSW to four decades of bitterness and injustice.

Within twelve months over one thousand members had joined the Flat & Property Owners Association which Mr Brian Doyle had formed in 1947.

The Association was constituted on 23rd of March 1950 in the Real Estate Rooms, Martin Place. Mr Doyle was elected President – a position he was to hold until 1968, when both he and Mrs Doyle were made life members.
Offices were rented at 296 Pitt Street where Mr Doyle and other members became full time Fair Rent Advocates acting for members seeking rent increases and giving advice and guidance.

Other Members of the original committee who the Association made life members were Mr L N Flitcroft who remained Honorary Treasurer for 22 years, Mr H Johncke who served the Association until he died in 1965, and Mr Bill Jones who was Vice President for 20 years.

The Legal Successes

The Association took a new direction when Mr Jack Rathborne joined about 1956. Mr Rathborne who eventually succeeded Mr Doyle as president, believed that the NSW Landlord & Tenant Act was badly drafted and could be beaten in the Courts. The Association embarked upon a series of challenges to the Act, backing members actions financially or with legal guidance.

There were many notable victories. Possibly the most resounding was the case of Rathborne V Abel in 1965 when the NSW Government funded the tenant, Mrs Abel. To the privy Council in London, The win by Mr Rathborne and this Association threatened to destroy the Government’s control on rents. The sudden changes could have had serious social repercussions.

The government moved quickly and the Landlord & Tenant Act was amended to negate the victory. However, the Act still required the Magistrates setting fair rents to have regard to “the justice and merits of the case” – a section that had previously been ignored.

Again the Jack Rathborne & Property Owners Association team sprang into action, this time in the renound case Rathborne v Hamill. Again we had a resounding victory and again the very structure of the 1948 Landlord & Tenant Act was in jeopardy.

The Governments answer was the 1966 amendments to the Act which prohibited Magistrates from considering ” the justice and merits of the case”. Indeed the words were deleted from Section 20 of the Act and have never been reinstated. To this day, magistrates are not required to consider justice and merits in any Court determination under the 1948 Act.

Mr Rathborne and only Mr Rathborne, was allowed to enjoy his victory. The amendments applied to all houses in NSW which were subject to the Act……except the house owned by Mr Rathborne in Grafton ST Naremburn which was specifically excluded.

The Association enjoyed many other less notable, but important legal victories.

Housing & Tenants Reform Association

Meanwhile back in 1957, the other arm of our Association had been born. “The Housing & Tenancy Reform Association” was founded in Manly with such people as Irene Thompson, Muriel Jeavons and M M Anderson as the driving forces. This association grew rapidly and soon had members statewide.

The aim of this Association were similar to the Flat & Property Owners Association, but the thrust of their endeavours was quite different. Here was a group of “stirrers” who sought out the most blatant injustices and then proceeded to barrage Parliamentarians and the Public, by public meetings, letters to everyone of influence and skilful press releases. At one stage, they even chained themselves to the seats of Parliament House during a debate on amendments to the Landlord & Tenant Act (Both Associations combined in 1979 in what is now known as the Property Owners Association of NSW.)

The Wind of Change

By 1981 the supply of dwellings for rent had been seriously depleted. Whole streets were in a rundown and dilapidated condition. As owners of rent controlled properties could not afford to effect repairs. Fair Rent Courts were bogged down with litigants. People chose not to move to more important jobs where alternate rental accommodation would be needed. The newspapers were critical of the governments housing “Policy”. A Royal Commission was appointed under Mr Dennis Mahoney QC. It sat for nearly eight months. Both the Flat & Property Owners Association and the Housing & Tenancy Reform Association were strongly represented and had considerable influence on the eventual recommendation. Though it took a long while the Government eventually embraced many of the commissions recommendations.

Gabriel Keleny Honoured for POA long service

Every organisation has someone who just keeps working away behind the scenes. They are seldom named and mostly out of sight even when they kick goals.

Gabriel Keleny is one such person.

Gabriel has been a member of the POA for about 30 years and a long standing committee person. He is quietly spoken however when Gabriel speaks he is listened to. His words are wise and all know he has done his homework.

In the early 1990’s Gabriel was the person who discovered hidden rent control contained in a private members bill instigated by the Tenant’s Union for Clover Moore, the State Independent MP who held the balance of power. The POA were able to alert the Real Estate industry who inundated Clover Moore MP with complaints. Thankfully the Bill did not proceed.

Whilst Gabriel has contributed in many ways and his work in producing many submissions is acknowledged it would be true to say that water and the Tribunal are two of his pets.

Gabriel has always been keen to have tenants pay for their water and for all households have metered supplies.
With the Tribunal Gabriel has always strived for a fair go for landlords.

As a property owner Gabriel has always tried to be fair and reasonable with tenants as he realises the need for landlords and tenants to have a partnership for mutual benefit.

On the 7th December the POA committee hosted a dinner to recognise Gabriel’s long service and outstanding efforts. Gabriel was presented with a pen set as a small token of the Committee’s appreciation.