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SA Incurred Debt Due to DHA Error - What to Do?

Discussion in 'Debt and Bankruptcy Law Forum' started by Corporalswife, 2 March 2016.

  1. Corporalswife

    Corporalswife Member

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    My partner, employed by the Australian Defence Force, was posted to a remote location where we had to relocate, interstate, in September 2014. We were moved into a DHA and signed a rental agreement stating the rent / water contribution from commencement date was $0.

    A few months ago, my partner found out that the other full time defence employees in his unit that were in DHA houses were all paying a small amount of rent (subsidised) except for him, as it was communicated, and in the rental agreement that we did not need to pay rent. Therefore, he contacted DHA by phone to check that our rental agreement was correct, to avoid any trouble or incurring a debt. They said, yes it is correct and no there is no rent payable for this DHA property.

    Approximately a month later, this still playing on his mind, he went into the DHA office just to ensure that everything is correct. And again he was reassured. Just recently, he was contacted by DHA saying that it was incorrect and he was supposed to be paying a fortnightly amount all along and it was supposed to be direct debited out of his pay automatically by DHA each pay.

    They said he has incurred a debt of over $17,000 and has to pay it. This pay week they have started deducting rent and an amount to go against the debt.

    I don't believe we should have to pay this back as it was at DHA's mistake and my partner was doing everything correctly. DHA is denying that my partner called and went into their office to clear this up. My partner has requested phone recordings and camera footage in which both "don't exist".

    We are expecting a baby In less than 5 weeks and I go on maternity leave in 2 weeks. I'm terrified as with the unauthorised amount being taken out of my partner's account each week, we simply will struggle to get by. We definitely don't have the funds to pay for a solicitor or a lawyer to assist us in this case.

    I am seeking your legal opinions. Should we legally have to pay this amount back when it was not at our mistake and the agreement clearly states $0 rent. What do we do?

    Please help.
     
  2. Haley

    Haley Active Member

    Joined:
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    Hi Corporalswife

    Not 'legal' help as such, but procedural, based on my own experiences. Firstly, make an official complaint to DHA and request your records from them, in writing, under the Freedom of Information act. This will determine whether notes were made in the instances your husband contacted DHA. Have your husband make his own complaint through his own chain of command as well. This will need to be done, and an outcome reached, before you can make a complaint to the Defence Ombudsman's office.

    Also, check Pay and Conditions Manual (PACMAN) for your particular service, if you haven't already. This will detail how much DHA can deduct each fortnight and steps to take to argue undue hardship and reduce the payments.

    And, only partially related - make sure you do EVERYTHING with DHA in writing. Just in case.

    Good luck, and let us know how you go.
     

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