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What powers do tenants have over sex offenders?

14 February 2017 Hannah Blackiston

There are rules regarding the steps a tenant can take if they suspect someone in their apartment building is a registered sex offender. Here’s what you need to know.

What power do tenants have over their neighbours?

There are rules regarding the steps a tenant can take if they suspect someone in their apartment building is a registered sex offender. Here’s what you need to know.

Legally, there isn’t much a tenant can do about the other people living in their building, even if one of them is a registered sex offender, says body corporate law specialist James Nickless.

“By law, only the chief executive of Corrective Services can disclose confidential information if it is in the public interest,” Mr Nickless said.

“They will reveal this information only when individual community members need to know about an offender’s placement or employment – including residents, local schools and childcare centres – in the same area where the offender is living.”

Before any information can be shared, the receiving party must sign a confidentiality agreement. Once this is done, they are legally bound not to share the information provided to them. Without this document, they can only be informed that a sex offender is living in the local neighbourhood.

Tenants should be cautious about the action they take if a third party suggests to them that someone in the building has a previous conviction, as there can be serious ramifications for spreading this information.

“If you are confronted with such an allegation, firstly you should not spread that accusation any further, because to do so could open you up to an action for defamation if the rumour is false,” Archers – The Strata Professionals partner, Wayne Hewitt, said.

“Secondly, as Mr Nickless has pointed out, even if the person has a conviction, under the Privacy Act 1988, information about someone’s criminal record is classed as ‘sensitive information’, so disclosing that detail may constitute a breach of privacy and attract civil penalties,” Mr Hewitt said.

“Thirdly, there are quite steep penalties if you disclose someone’s criminal record that has lapsed after a certain period of time. Given all that, it is highly advisable to seek legal advice before taking any action.”

However, there are steps tenants can take and people they can contact for information if they are worried about their safety or the safety of their family.

“If you do have concerns about a potential child sex offender in your complex, you should contact the police’s child protection unit. These officers have access to the National Child Offender System which keeps track of child sex offenders after they have served their time,” Mr Hewitt said.

“The good news is that police can confirm to residents, owners or property managers if an individual has a ‘disclosable’ conviction for a serious offence.”

What powers do tenants have over sex offenders?
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