New laws are being introduced into Victoria’s Parliament to help protect residential tenants facing financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The laws are expected to be passed by the Victorian Parliament by 23rd April 2020. The services provided by the government agencies listed below, including Consumer Affairs Victoria, will be available to tenants and landlords when the laws come into effect.
I can’t afford to pay my rent because of coronavirus (COVID-19). What can I do?
Your property manager will be encouraging you to pay as much rent as you can, as often as you can.
If you are unable to pay all of your rent because of a change in your financial circumstances, you may be able to agree on a temporary rent reduction or rental deferral with your landlord, who will liaise with your property manager.
It’s important you don’t ignore the problem, as not paying rent is a breach of your tenancy agreement, and will result in a large debt to repay at the end of the COVID-19 crisis.
Who can I get additional assistance from?
The Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program (TAAP) can make a referral where appropriate. It supports tenants who are financially disadvantaged and vulnerable, and have certain specified tenancy issues.
On 18 March 2020, the Victorian Government announced almost $6 million for Victorian homelessness organisations. The funding will help protect Victorians at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness because of coronavirus (COVID-19).
If you need urgent help with housing, contact the Department of Health and Human Services’ housing assistance team. Call 1800 825 955 (free call, 24 hours) or visit the HousingVic website.
What if I’ve already been served a notice to vacate?
The new laws will apply from 29 March 2020. This means that you can’t be served a notice to vacate from that date. The landlord may still apply to terminate the tenancy under some circumstances, including if you damage the property, use it for criminal activity, or serious violence occurs.
If you are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 virus, you should contact your property manager as soon as possible to let them know of your specific situation. It is likely that documentation to support your hardship claim may be required.
Money may be available to support you
A new and dedicated $80 million will also be provided in rental assistance for those facing financial hardship.
Under the program, tenants who are unable to secure a rent reduction will have the opportunity to engage in a dispute resolution process with their landlord/agent and Consumer Affairs Victoria’s dispute resolution service.
To help cover any shortfall in rent, tenants may be eligible to apply for a rental relief grant of up to $2,000. This grant is paid directly to the landlord/agent to help cover the costs of the shortfall.
Learn more about the Rent Relief Grant and check your eligibility under this scheme.
If you are not eligible for a Rent Relief Grant, there is a range of information and other services available to support you. You may also be eligible for Commonwealth Rent Assistance through Centrelink.
The information in this article was sourced in part from the Consumer Affairs Victoria website. As the situation is changing frequently. You should check for updates before making a decision based on this information.