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Things changed very quickly for Erica and her partner, Mark. When COVID-19 hit, they both lost their jobs and suddenly found themselves unemployed, in lockdown, and unable to pay their rent.
The retail business Erica worked for was one of many that was forced into immediate shutdown. With no notice, she was simply told not to come into work again.
After years of living in a place she considered ‘home’, Erica now faced a great deal of uncertainty around things that had been stable for years. She applied for Centrelink’s JobKeeper payment, but having only been in her current job for 5 months, she was not eligible.
“We couldn’t stay in our place, the rent was simply too expensive. We knew there was a ban on evictions, but we still weren’t able to pay the rent that would build up."
Stress set in and things started to look like they could go from bad to worse. With no income, nowhere to go, and rent starting to pile up, the couple were desperate and didn’t know what to do next. That’s when Erica stumbled across Anika and decided to reach out for assistance through the COVID-19 Rent Reduction Service.
Erica started her case online and was soon put in touch with Dan, one of Anika’s volunteer paralegals. After assessing her situation, Dan answered Erica’s questions and informed her of her rights and options with legal advice signed off by Anika’s Principal Lawyer.
Previously, Erica’s experience with her landlord and agent hadn’t been great. She had tried to get repairs done in the past but had found them very difficult to deal with and felt like there was little she could do. However, after reading Anika’s rent reduction guide that was provided along with her legal advice, Erica felt confident enough to reach out to her landlord and apply for a rent reduction.
“Without Anika’s assistance, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable negotiating with the agent. I was kind of terrified, to be completely honest, as they had been really difficult in the past.”
After some back and forth with her landlord and agent, Erica was able to secure a 50 percent rent reduction for the next 3 months, allowing her and her partner to remain in their home without the fear of a mountain of unaffordable debt piling up.
“Without the rent reduction, there is no way at all we would have been able to stay. I’m not sure where we would have been able to go.”
Anika’s COVID-19 Rent Reduction Service is an online service that Victorian tenants can access from the comfort and safety of their living room – a feature that is proving to be more important now than ever. Our aim is not only to provide support to people in need, but also give renters the tools and the confidence to be able to assert their rights and create an open channel of communication with their landlord.
“It worked super well. Dan was quick to respond, and if I needed anything he was there. Having the law on your side makes you feel way more comfortable with dealing with these things, especially because in the past I have been told that I am just a young renter who doesn’t have any rights. I didn’t realise that as a renter I actually had some power!”
Erica is now receiving Centrelink’s Job Seeker payment and will have her situation reassessed by her landlord in 3 months. By then, Erica hopes to have found a new job and be able to go back to paying her normal rent.
“I would give Anika a 10! I didn’t have any issues at all and I thought the service went super well. It was exactly what I needed.”
Securing an outcome that worked for both Erica and her landlord is the reason why Anika exists. While COVID-19 means that Erica is just one of many Australians facing dire circumstances, Anika is committed to ensuring that as many Victorian tenants as possible have a safe and stable living situation.
Anika Legal's impact depends on the generous support of community organisations, and people like you! Our service is, and will always be, 100% free to those who need it. If you would like to discuss how you or your organisation can support Anika Legal, please click here to get in contact with our Partnerships Manager.