Housing & Tenants’ Rights in Victoria | Barwon Community Legal Service
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Housing and Tenancy

The content on this site is information only and is not legal advice. If you need legal advice please contact us.

Learn more about housing and tenants’ rights in Victoria

Housing and tenancy laws are an essential safeguard for Victorian renters. Tenant issues include rental payments, repairs, breaking leases, bonds, and what to do if you’re struggling financially. Understanding your rights and obligations is crucial if you live in a rental property.

While there are many different types of tenancies and house rental agreements, the information on this page applies to standard residential tenancy agreements.

If you live in a rooming house, a caravan park, or public housing, or if you rent a site or have a licence agreement, there are some differences in how the law applies to you. If you’re uncertain about what type of tenancy or rental agreement you have, contact us for advice.

The Victorian Government’s emergency measures during the coronavirus pandemic were temporary. 2021 will see significant changes to tenancy laws in Victoria and this page will be updated to reflect these changes over the next few months.  For the most current information please visit Tenants Victoria or contact us.

Housing and tenants’ rights during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Due to the severe economic stress caused by the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, the Victorian Government introduced special laws and regulations to protect renters. These measures, known as emergency measures, have been introduced for a limited time only.

What are the laws and protections introduced for the coronavirus pandemic?

The emergency measures include:

  • Banning landlords from evicting tenants for falling behind in rent, except in some circumstances
  • Banning landlords from increasing rent
  • In some circumstances, allowing the tenant to give notice to the landlord to end the tenancy without having to pay lease break fees
  • Allowing the tenant to refuse to allow someone (for example, a property manager) to enter the home for a coronavirus-related reason, for example, being in isolation or having the virus
  • New protections for family violence situations
  • If either landlords or tenants are unable to comply with their responsibilities because of coronavirus, they will not be breaching their obligations or duties
  • If unable to pay rent, prohibiting the landlord from listing the tenant on a tenant database (blacklist)

For a full description of the coronavirus emergency measures, see the Tenants Victoria Coronavirus guide for renters.

A landlord is a property owner. A property manager is someone who manages the property on behalf of a landlord, for example, collecting rent and managing repairs to the property. Often, property managers are real estate agents.

If you seek help from an organisation or agency because you have an issue with your rental property, you will need the full name of your landlord (property owner). This information should be in your lease agreement.

If you’re struggling to pay your rent, you can pay a reduced amount if your landlord agrees. Tenants Victoria provide a step-by-step rent reduction guide to help you through the process.

You need to contact the landlord or property manager to ask for a rent reduction. If they agree, you should make a written agreement. You can register the agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV).

Once you contact CAV with your agreement, you’re allowed to apply for rent relief (see section below, Can I get rent relief during the coronavirus pandemic?)

If your landlord doesn’t agree to a rent reduction, you can ask CAV for help. CAV can negotiate with the landlord on your behalf. Sometimes, CAV may refer the issue for mediation, which is a meeting where you, your landlord, and an independent mediator try and find a solution to the problem. The Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria generally conducts these mediations.

If your landlord continues to oppose a rent reduction, the Chief Dispute Resolution Officer may decide how much rent you should be paying or  give you a referral form so that you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for an Order to reduce your rent. 

Anika Legal provides a free legal service for people seeking rent reductions during the coronavirus pandemic. Anika Legal will ask you to complete a questionnaire and will then prepare a letter to your landlord or property manager and guide you in negotiating with your landlord.

Justice Connect offers a similar free service for Victorian renters who are struggling with rent payments due to coronavirus.

If you need more information about rent reductions, please contact us to make an appointment.

A deferral of a rental payment is an agreement between you and your landlord to delay your rental payments for a period, and then recommence full rental payments on an agreed date.

Rent deferrals are different from rent reductions, in which you continue paying rent, but at a reduced rate (to which your landlord has agreed). For more information, see <If I’m struggling to pay my rent, can I pay a reduced amount? (link to section above)>.

If you’re experiencing financial hardship, Tenants Victoria recommends that you do not accept a rent deferral arrangement if your landlord offers one. It will only increase your debt and cause you further stress and hardship.

If your landlord only offers a deferral arrangement, you can contact Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) for help, or contact us for more information.

You can get a one-off rent relief payment of up to $3,000 in some circumstances, and if you’re struggling to pay your rent because of coronavirus.

You can apply for rent relief if you have a rent reduction agreement or rent reduction Order registered with Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV).

You must also meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Your income or work hours have reduced by at least 20 per cent because of coronavirus; and
  • You earn less than the maximum amount; and
  • You have less than $10,000 in savings; and
  • You pay more than 30 per cent of your income (before tax) in rent

If your application is successful, the rent relief is paid to your landlord or real estate agent. It should be credited towards your rental payments.

For more information, visit:

While the coronavirus emergency measures are in place, your landlord is NOT allowed to evict you if you fall behind on your rent. However, they can apply for a Termination Order if they believe you can afford the rent. If your landlord decides to evict you, they must apply to Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) for help to resolve the issue. If this doesn’t work, CAV may give the landlord permission to apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a Termination Order.

There are limited circumstances in which VCAT can make a Termination Orders, for example, if a tenant:

  • Causes significant damage to the property
  • Uses the property for an illegal purpose
  • Makes serious threats against the landlord 

The landlord may apply for a Termination Order if they are selling the property, or it is no longer fit for tenants. For a more detailed list of reasons, visit Tenants Victoria.  

If your landlord is trying to evict you, contact us for urgent legal advice. 

For more information about eviction during the coronavirus pandemic, visit the Tenants Victoria website.

Tom and Julie’s COVID crisis

Tom and Julie rent a home. Their tenancy agreement is due to end in two months, while coronavirus emergency measures are still in place. They pay $300 rent per week. 

Due to coronavirus, Tom was recently made redundant from his employment. Julie was stood down without pay. They can no longer afford their rent and are concerned about eviction.

They made an appointment to see a lawyer at Barwon Community Legal Service. The lawyer told them that while the emergency measures were in effect, the landlord wasn’t allowed to give them a Notice to Vacate. The landlord could not evict them if the normal rent payments would cause them severe financial hardship. The lawyer helped Tom and Julie write a letter to their landlord asking for a rent reduction agreement due to coronavirus.

If you have a fixed-term lease, usually, you must give your landlord 28 days’ notice if you want to move out at the end of your lease. However, while coronavirus emergency measures are in place, some situations are different. For example, you may be able to give 14 days’ notice (for either a both fixed-term or a periodic lease) if any of the following apply to you:

  • Severe hardship
  • The landlord has applied to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VCAT) to end the tenancy agreement (although you’re not required to move out unless VCAT makes an Order requiring you to move out)
  • You need special or personal care
  • You’ve accepted accommodation in public housing
  • You need temporary crisis accommodation (for example, if you’re experiencing family violence)
  • The landlord is no longer registered to provide you with special disability accommodation

You should use the recommended form to give notice to your landlord. If you need to leave your tenancy early, contact us for an appointment.

If you move out during your lease and you’ve provided 14 days’ notice in writing in the correct form, you’re not responsible for lease-break fees.

For more information, see Tenants Victoria’s Coronavirus guide for renters.

If you’re a tenant, we can help you with advice about your rights and obligations.

When you have an appointment with us, you will need to bring a copy of your lease agreement (if available).

Contact us to make an appointment.

Housing and tenants’ rights during other times

When the Victorian Government’s special laws and protections for the coronavirus pandemic come to an end, the usual laws and protections will resume. Here is a summary of how they may affect you.

A landlord is a property owner. A property manager is someone who manages the property on behalf of a landlord, for example, collecting rent and managing repairs to the property. Often, property managers are real estate agents.

If you seek help from an organisation or agency because you have an issue with your rental property, you will need the full name of your landlord (property owner). This information should be in your lease agreement.

Falling behind in your rent is known as arrears or rent arrears. Rent arrears add up for every day that your rent is overdue.

Once you are 14 days in arrears, the landlord has the right to give you a Notice to vacate, which advises you that you must move out of the property by a specific date.

Don’t ignore the Notice. It will only make things worse. If you’re in arrears, you should:

  • Write to (or email) the landlord (or property manager) about your difficulties in paying the rent; and
  • Offer to pay extra rent with each future rental payment until you’ve repaid the arrears (payment plan)
  • If the landlord (or property manager) agrees, make sure you keep a copy of the letters or emails between you. (If they verbally agree, ask them to confirm the agreement in an email or by letter)

If you’re under financial stress, for example, if you or your partner lost your job, you may not be able to pay a little extra each week. You should only offer to pay what you can reasonably afford.

If coronavirus caused your financial stress, see <If I’m struggling to pay my rent, can I pay a reduced amount? (link to section above)>

Even if your financial stress isn’t related to coronavirus, you can still seek assistance. For example, the Victorian Government offers concessions for low-income people who are struggling to pay their bills. Applying for a concession may free-up some of your income to help you meet your rent payments.

To find out more, see Housing Victoria’s information for private renters.

You may also apply to Centrelink for support payments, if eligible. <For more information about the types of payments and how to apply, visit our Centrelink page. (Insert link to new Centrelink page)>

If:

  • You’re more than 14 days behind in your rent; and
  • The landlord has issued a Notice to Vacate and won’t negotiate repayment terms,

the landlord can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VCAT) for a Possession Order, which means they can evict you from the property.

If you receive a Notice to Vacate, you need to seek legal help immediately. Contact us for more information.

Tenants Victoria is a free service which gives email advice and has a tenant phone advice line. For more information, visit the Tenants Victoria website.

Diversitat is a not-for-profit organisation which supports multicultural, disadvantaged and vulnerable people in the Barwon region. Its Tenancy and Advocacy Program offers free legal advice and representation for people facing VCAT proceedings due to Notices to Vacate. Visit the Diversitat website for more information.

Bethany Community Support provides a tenancy assistance program which helps people who live in private rental accommodation, public housing, and community housing, including people in financial distress and those experiencing family violence. Bethany assists with a range of issues, including rent payments and Notices to Vacate. For more information, visit the Bethany website.

To learn more, visit the Tenants Victoria website page about rent arrears.

Victorian laws require you to tell your landlord when something in your home needs repair. The landlord must keep the home maintained and in good repair. But sometimes there’s a question about what this means, or what to do if the landlord refuses.

Often, the landlord must fix the issue within 14 days of your request. But if the problem is urgent, they must act immediately.

Urgent repairs

Urgent issues are those that make it unsafe for you to continue living in your home or those that are serious. They include:

  • No running water
  • A serious electrical fault
  • Flooding
  • Structurally unsafe

For a list of issues that are considered urgent, see the Tenants Victoria website.

If your landlord doesn’t respond to your request for urgent repairs, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to resolve the issue. VCAT is required to hear your case within two days.

To request urgent repairs, you need to contact your landlord or property manager. Keep a record of your conversation, including the date and time of your call. You should follow-up in writing (for example, email) to confirm what was discussed and what action is to be taken.

If the landlord (or land agent) refuses to do the urgent repairs or doesn’t act quickly, you can book the repairs yourself, pay for them and seek compensation from the landlord. However, the risk is that the landlord may not reimburse you. We recommend that you seek legal advice before taking this step.

Anika Legal is a free service for eligible Victorian tenants. You can use Anika Legal for advice and representation to get something repaired. Because it’s an online service, it’s quick, with a reasonable success rate. See the Anika Legal website for more information about property repairs.

Non-urgent repairs

For non-urgent repairs, the landlord (or property manager) has 14 days to complete the repairs, from the date of your request. Non-urgent repairs are repairs that aren’t considered urgent. For a list of issues that are considered urgent, see the Tenants Victoria website.

When you’re requesting non-urgent repairs, you should do so in writing (for example, email), and keep a copy of your request. Consumer Affairs Victoria has a form which it recommends when requesting a repair.

If:

  • The landlord rejects the repair request; or
  • The repairs aren’t completed within 14 days; or
  • Your landlord doesn’t respond,

you must continue to pay rent in full. If you stop paying your rent, your landlord may have grounds to evict you, even if they won’t repair the home. VCAT can order you to pay the rent into a special account until repairs are done.

If the landlord doesn’t carry out the repairs, you can apply to Consumer Affairs Victoria for an inspection. An inspector will make recommendations and send a copy of the report to you and the landlord. If the landlord doesn’t follow the recommendations, you can apply to VCAT for an Order requiring the landlord to comply. If VCAT makes an Order, the landlord is legally required to do everything specified in the Order.

For free legal advice, contact us to make an appointment.

For free legal representation, contact Anika Legal. If you’re eligible, Anika Legal can act on your behalf. See the Anika Legal website for more information about property repairs.

Tenants Victoria is a free service which has both an email advice and tenant phone advice line. For more information, visit the Tenants Victoria website.

Diversitat is a not-for-profit organisation which supports multicultural, disadvantaged and vulnerable people in the Barwon region. Its Tenancy and Advocacy Program offers free legal advice and representation for tenants having problems with repairs. Visit the Diversitat website for more information.

Victorian law requires your landlord (or property manager) to:

  • Provide you with at least 24 hours’ written notice that they intend to visit you
  • State the reason for the visit
  • Give the notice to you during the day or post it. If you have previously agreed, your landlord can send it by email

Their visit must be between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm. They must not visit on public holidays. If the time the landlord (or property manager) wishes to visit does not suit you, you can try to negotiate a more suitable time with them.

Acceptable reasons for landlords entering your property (provided they’ve given proper notice) include:

  • To carry out maintenance or repairs
  • For a scheduled and routine inspection
  • Other reasons associated with preparing the property for sale

For a complete list of reasons, visit Tenants Victoria’s website page, Privacy and entry.

While visiting, it’s an offence for the landlord to behave unreasonably. For example, if they damage something, you can seek compensation from them.

If you’re having difficulties because your landlord is visiting at odd hours or without notice, you can send them a Breach of Duty Notice. You may also be entitled to seek compensation through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

If the landlord (or property manager) enters your home without following the proper procedure, they may be fined. You can apply for a restraining order from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) if the landlord (or property manager) continues to visit without warning or at odd hours.

For landlord difficulties, we recommend seeking legal advice as soon as possible.

Tenants Victoria is a free service which gives email advice and has a tenant phone advice line. For more information, visit the Tenants Victoria website.

Diversitat is a not-for-profit organisation which supports multicultural, disadvantaged and vulnerable people in the Barwon region. It provides free legal advice and representation for people experiencing tenancy issues. Visit the Diversitat website for more information.

Bethany Community Support also provides free legal help with rental repairs. It’s available to people living in public or community housing. For more information, visit the Bethany website.

To learn more, visit Tenants Victoria’s website page, Privacy and entry.

Rental bonds are security payments which are held by the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA). Landlords usually ask for potential tenants to provide bonds as security to make sure the tenants obey the terms of the lease, for example, looking after the property and paying rent. In some circumstances, if the tenant fails to follow the terms of the lease, the landlord can claim the bond.

Bonds are usually the equivalent of four weeks’ rent.

A bond lodged with the RTBA still belongs to you as the tenant. If there are no claims against the bond, it should be returned to you when you move out of the property. If a landlord (or property manager) refuses to return your bond, you can apply to VCAT for an Order that the bond is returned to you.

In some circumstances, it’s not possible to stick to the lease, for example, financial hardship or family violence. You may need to move out before the fixed-term lease period expires. In some circumstances, this is known as breaking the lease.

If you have to break your lease, the landlord may seek payment of rent to cover the remaining lease term, or until the property is rented again (whichever is sooner). The landlord may also require you to pay any marketing costs associated with this. Sometimes, the circumstances mean that you’re not responsible for such payments, so you should seek legal advice before breaking the lease.

However, if you need to break your lease due to financial hardship or family violence, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). If your application is successful, VCAT can make Orders about when the lease ends and whether you must pay any costs.

If you want someone else to take over the lease, this is known as assignment of the lease to another person. You go through a legal process of assigning the lease agreement, so the new person takes over the bond and all other obligations under the lease. The new person pays your share of the bond money to you. Then you complete a bond transfer.

If you want to assign your lease to someone else, you must have the landlord’s consent. The landlord must not unreasonably refuse to consent.

A landlord can’t charge you for giving their consent to assign. However, if there were costs in preparing a lease assignment document, the landlord may charge you for these costs.

Depending on when your lease ends, it may be cheaper for you to assign your lease, rather than pay lease break fees and associated costs.

For more information, see Tenants Victoria’s information about bond payments and refunds.

If you’re concerned about getting your bond back, we recommend seeking free legal advice from one of the following local organisations:

Your bond is a security deposit which should be returned to you if you meet all requirements of your lease. The Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA) holds the bond, although it remains your money. The landlord may claim against the bond if you haven’t met the terms of your lease or breached your duties under the tenancy laws. For example:

  • Damage
  • Cleaning
  • Unpaid rent

The landlord has ten business days to make a claim against the bond, from the day you move out of the property.

If the landlord tries to claim your bond (or part of it), but you disagree, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to decide the issue, including how much of the bond should be returned. Sometimes this can happen when there’s a disagreement whether any damage to the property is normal wear and tear.

There are some other points to note about the VCAT process:

  • Applying to VCAT is free if you are seeking a decision only about your bond
  • You can apply for a bond decision only after you’ve moved out
  • VCAT will hold a hearing and decide whether to return your bond
  • VCAT’s decision is legally binding on both you and the landlord

For more information, see Tenants Victoria’s information about bond payments and refunds.

You can seek free legal advice and representation from the following local organisations:

A blacklist is a tenant database, maintained by a private company. There are several Victorian companies which maintain tenant databases. Because blacklists have information about tenants’ rental history, landlords (and property managers) refer to them when deciding whether to rent a property to a potential tenant.

If you’re blacklisted, you may have serious problems renting a property.

A blacklisting can last for up to three years.

There are rules about who can be blacklisted, for example:

  • Tenants who owe the landlord money (after using the bond to cover the outstanding costs); or
  • Tenants who have a <Possession Order against them (link to I’ve fallen behind in my rent and am being threatened with eviction. What can I do? Section above)> for specific reasons

Blacklisting usually only happens because a tenant breaches the requirements of the lease. 

You can’t be blacklisted if:

  • Your name isn’t on the lease
  • Your lease hasn’t ended
  • The landlord hasn’t first given you reasonable notice of their intention to blacklist you

You can ask to be removed from a blacklist if:

  • The listing is out of date (it’s more than three years old); or
  • You’ve repaid any money owing within three months of the end of your lease; or
  • The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) cancels the Possession Order against you

You can also apply to update a listing (for example, if you’ve paid some of the money, listing can be changed to show this).

To apply to cancel or change a blacklisting, you can write to (or email) the landlord (or property manager), with your request. They have seven days to contact the database company requesting the change. The company must make the change (if justified) within 14 days.

For more information, see Tenants Victoria’s information Tenant databases or “blacklists”

You can seek free legal help from the following local organisations:

If you have suffered a loss or a significant inconvenience because your landlord breached their duties, you may be able to apply for compensation. Compensation is money paid to a person for a loss, for example, damage to your property.

 Landlords’ duties include:

  • Keeping the property well-maintained
  • Doing repairs within a reasonable time
  • Allowing the tenant to have quiet enjoyment of the property
  • Ensuring the property is clean at the beginning of the lease
  • Ensuring the property is vacant at the beginning of the lease
  • Ensuring the property has adequate security and keys for the tenant

If the landlord breaches a duty and you suffer a loss, it’s worth investigating whether you’re entitled to compensation. For example, while the landlord is inspecting your property, they break a valuable vase.

You can give the landlord a Breach of Duty Notice. They have 14 days to fix the breach. If they fail to do so, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Appeals Tribunal (VCAT) for Orders requiring the landlord to comply with the Breach of Duty Notice or to pay you compensation.

VCAT will decide after it has reviewed your evidence and held a hearing. Usually, you have six years from the date the issue arose to apply for compensation.

For more information, see Tenants Victoria’s information, When the landlord breaches their duties.

You can seek free legal advice and representation from the following local organisations:

A landlord may claim compensation against you if they believe you have breached your duties as a tenant, for example:

  • Unpaid rent
  • Rent and costs because you broke the lease
  • Damage
  • Failure to leave the property in a good state of repair and cleanliness

Often, a landlord claims the bond money to offset their costs before applying for compensation against you. If the compensation claim is more than the bond amount and you haven’t agreed to sign over your bond, the landlord may make a joint claim for the bond and for compensation at VCAT.

If the bond doesn’t cover the amount of the damage or loss, they may make a compensation claim, to a maximum amount of $10,000. In some circumstances, this can be increased.

The landlord can make a compensation claim in the Victorian Civil and Appeals Tribunal (VCAT). If you agree with the claim, you can pay, and the matter won’t proceed to a hearing. You’re usually made aware that the landlord will claim, giving you a chance to negotiate an agreement.

You should confirm any agreement in writing and make sure that the VCAT application is withdrawn. This is to ensure that the hearing doesn’t go ahead in your absence.

If you disagree, you can dispute the claim and the matter will be heard by VCAT, with evidence from the landlord and from you. VCAT will make a decision. If it orders you to pay compensation, you are legally required to pay. If you fail to follow the Orders, the landlord may take enforcement action through the Courts.

The landlord has a maximum of six years to make a compensation claim against you, from the date of the loss or damage.

For more information, see Tenants Victoria’s information, Defending a compensation claim by your landlord.

If your landlord makes a compensation claim against you, we recommend that you seek legal advice urgently. You can get free legal advice and representation from the following local organisations:

How can Barwon Community Legal Service help me?

If you’re a private tenant, contact us to find out if we can help you.

When you have an appointment with us, please bring a copy of your lease agreement (if available).

Contact us to book an appointment.

Important points to remember:

  • There are different types of tenancies with different rights and obligations. It can be challenging to work out which type of agreement you have, so we recommend that you seek legal advice for any legal issues concerning your tenancy
  • The coronavirus (COVID-19) tenancy laws are temporary. When they no longer apply, usual tenancy laws will resume.
  • If you seek help from an organisation for a rental property issue, you’ll need the full name of your landlord (property owner). This information should be in your lease agreement.

Last modified on April 29th, 2021 at 9:52 am

The content on this site is information only and is not legal advice. If you need legal advice please contact us.