Renters should know their rights as Victoria’s ban on evictions ends, new rental laws come into effect
Tenancy support groups and legal services are urging Victorian renters to get free legal advice now the state’s ban on evictions and rental increases has come to an end and left thousands of renters vulnerable to eviction and homelessness.
The end of the key protections for renters on March 28 means thousands of Victorians who have been unable to pay their rent due to a loss of income or employment during COVID could now be served with notices to vacate due to unpaid rent.
But tenancy support groups are quick to point out that under the new rental laws, which took effect on March 29, there are still protections available for renters faced with eviction, and they have urged tenants to explore their options.
Jennifer Beveridge, CEO of Tenants Victoria, which lobbied for changes to the Residential Tenancies Act (now known as the Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021), says it is important renters and landlords familiarise themselves with the new laws.
Tenants Victoria has updated its website to include information about the new rental laws and encourages Victorian renters to become familiar with their new rights and to call its tenant advice line or email advice service if they need further legal advice.
Among the 130 new regulations are changes to the way notices to vacate are now handled.
Noel Lim, CEO of Anika Legal, which offers a free online legal service for Victorian renters, says although landlords can now issue a notice to vacate if a tenant’s rent is 14 days overdue, it doesn’t mean a tenant has to move out on that termination date.
Rather, as has always been the case, the landlord will need to take the tenant to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) where, under the new provisions, VCAT will have to determine if it is reasonable and proportionate for a landlord to evict a tenant.
Mr Lim says there are a now several things VCAT has to consider before they can make an order to evict someone. These include negotiating a payment plan to repay the rent and only making a possession order if it is reasonable and proportionate to do so.
“With these changes to tenancy laws, there are some really important changes that people should be aware of if they do receive a notice to vacate,” he says.
“Firstly, if you receive a notice to vacate, you don’t have to leave your property on that termination date, it is just the beginning of the process and the next part of the process requires you to go to a VCAT hearing and until a possession order is granted at VCAT you can continue to stay at your property,” says Mr Lim.
“Secondly, we advise people in this situation to actually go along to their VCAT hearing, as this well help them understand what’s happening with their housing situation, but also allow them to ask VCAT to exercise it’s discretion to, for example, order a payment plan, or allow you to stay in the rental a little longer so you can find your next accommodation, before you have to leave your current one,” he says.
Anika Legal has just launched an eviction-support service for tenants with unpaid rent. The free online service was launched on Monday to coincide with the end of the moratorium on evictions, and provides tenants with legal advice to help navigate the eviction process.
“As part of the service, we provide our clients with legal advice, to their specific circumstances.We negotiate with their landlord on their behalf to try and agree on a payment plan and we prepare our client for VCAT,” Mr Lim says.
“Our general advice is that if you have a received a notice to vacate because you have fallen behind in rent you should know your rights and seek some free legal advice, before you panic because you do have options.”
Other changes under the new laws include landlords having to give a reason when they issue a notice to vacate and that rent increases can only be made once every 12 months instead of every six months for most renters.
A spokeswoman for Consumer Affairs Minister Melissa Horne pointed out rental disputes lodged before the end of the moratorium on March 29 would be handled under the previous protections.
“Renters who lodged an eligible dispute or rent reduction through Consumer Affairs Victoria before the end of the eviction moratorium will still be protected by the rights and protections that were in place at the time of lodgement,” the spokeswoman said.
A guide to the new rental laws are available on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.
Ref: RACHEL WELLS (on 06 Apr 2021). Renters should know their rights as Victoria’s ban on evictions ends, new rental laws come into effect. Retrieved from https://www.domain.com.au/news/renters-should-know-their-rights-as-victorias-ban-on-evictions-ends-1040700/.
Images from internet