How do I find free legal help for a rental problem?

By Anika Legal | Mon 4th March '24

Dealing with issues at your rental property, such as your landlord failing to complete repairs or withholding your bond, can be stressful enough without trying to find out who you can ask for help.

Don’t worry though, there are free legal services available to help in your time of worry!

What might a Free Legal Service look like?

What is involved as part of a free legal service can vary greatly depending on the organisation, its speciality, and its capacity. For example, one organisation may offer general information, while another offers tailored one-on-one advice from a lawyer, and another may offer to represent you at a hearing. We’ve made a list below of the different kinds of free legal services that may be provided:

  • General information online or via phone call
  • Once-off advice from a lawyer taking into account your situation
  • Continuing advice from a lawyer throughout the duration of your issue
  • Letter drafting to your landlord or agent
  • Negotiation with your landlord or agent
  • Representation at your hearing

Are there any eligibility requirements for receiving Free Legal Advice?

While we try to make legal services as accessible as possible by making them free of charge, there may still be some requirements that need to be met. As a starting point, the issue you are experiencing must be an issue that is within the scope of the organisation you are reaching out to. This is often referred to as the “scope” of service. For example, Anika can assist you with rental repairs and recovering bonds after your tenancy ends. However, if you would like to ask about employment law issues, we would need to refer you to a different organisation that has knowledge on that subject.

In addition to the organisation's scope of service, you may also be required to meet another criterion such as being on low income, receiving government payments, or being in a situation that prevents you from reaching mainstream legal services. We’ve placed a list below of common eligibility criteria that organisations may have. In order to be eligible, you generally only need to meet one of these criteria.

  • Be entitled to government payments
  • Low income or experiencing financial hardship
  • Risk of homelessness
  • have a mental illness or disability
  • Live in social housing
  • Experience family violence
  • Be on a Visa
  • Be from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background.
  • Be located in a regional or remote location
  • Experience language or literacy problems

If you are unsure about whether you are eligible you can always ask!

Who Provides Free Legal Services?

Once you have decided that you want to ask for help, the next step is to find an organsation that offers a free legal service.To make it a bit easier, here are a few places you can contact that can help with rental problems for free:

  • Anika Legal - If you’re currently facing any of these issues, please visit our website here. We’re happy to assist!
  • Tenants Victoria - You can access their website here.
  • Legal Aid Victoria - You can access their website here.
  • Study Melbourne - If you're an internation student, you can approach Study Melbourne for a range of assistance (beyond just legal!). You can access their website here.

How Do I Ask for Help?

Asking for help can be scary but we try to make it as easy as possible! Depending on the organisation, asking for help can involve making a phone call, submitting an online intake form, or sending an email. The organsation will can then confirm your eligibility and start providing you with their service. We’ve provided some tips below for asking for help.

  • Be able to provide details of the issue you are experiencing
  • Have any key dates and documents ready (e.g. copy of your lease agreement, notice to vacate, hearing notices, etc.)
  • Inform the organisation if you want/require a support person to be invovled
  • Many organisations have access to interpreters, so if you believe an interpreter will help ask the organisation

If you’re unsure and need legal help we encourage you to reach out. These services can help to give you peace of mind when dealing with rental issues, all free of charge!

Regardless of where you reach out to for legal help, we recommend you do a few things:

  • Keep a record of communication with your landlord or their agent;
  • Take photos of any issues;
  • Maintain a log of events relating to the dispute if possible.

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