New COVID-19 laws affecting Victorian tenants

If you have a specific question that isn't listed below, please send it through to contact@anikalegal.com and we will endeavour to get you an answer ASAP!

What does the ban involve?

There is now a general ban on evicting Victorian tenants for 6 months from 29 March 2020.

However, your landlord can apply for an order ending the tenancy in certain situations including:

• where you have caused serious damage to the property;
• where you have endangered the safety of people including neighbours, the landlord or the landlord's agent; or
• where you have used the property for an illegal activity.

Do I still need to pay rent?

Yes. If you are unable to pay your rent, your landlord won’t be able to evict you, but the unpaid rent will continue to add up.

Can I ask for a rent reduction?

Yes, and we can help you! Click here to start your case. Don’t worry - it’s all free.

After you’ve submitted your case, one of our team members will be in touch to discuss your situation. Then, we’ll work with you to prepare a personalised letter to your landlord to seek a rent reduction. In our experience, a letter from an accredited legal institution helps in getting a successful outcome.

We will also give you the tools you may need to negotiate with your landlord and finalise the agreement.

How does Anika’s rent reduction service work with share houses?

Anika can help one or any number of tenants in a share house.

However we can’t help you negotiate against one of your housemates. For this reason, if you pay rent to someone who also shares your house (e.g. they may be the homeowner, or someone who has sub-let a room to you), we are unfortunately unable to help.

What if my landlord or their agent says no?

We hope our services will help you reach an agreement, but if not, there are a couple of last resort options:

  1. Apply to Consumer Affairs Victoria. If they can’t help you reach an agreement with your landlord, they will refer you to the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV) for a free mediation service.
  2. Apply to the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal (‘VCAT’) for an order reducing rent. VCAT is a Tribunal that deals with residential tenancy matters.

Am I eligible for government rent relief?

To be eligible for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) rent relief grant, you must meet all of the following requirements below:

  1. You have, or will shortly have, a bond registered with the Victorian Residential Tenancies Bond Authority.
  2. You have registered your rent reduction agreement (which we can help you with) with Consumer Affairs Victoria; or if you were unable to agree to a rent reduction, you have gone through mediation with your landlord.
  3. You have less than $5,000 in savings.
  4. You are paying at least 30 percent of your income in rent.
  5. Your household income must be less than $1,903 per week.

Don’t worry - you do NOT need to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident to be eligible.

Can I break my lease?

During this period (6 months from 29 March 2020), if you are suffering severe hardship, you have two options.

Option 1: Give notice

For periodic leases, tenants can end the lease by giving their landlord 14 days notice. Unfortunately for fixed term leases, tenants can only select an end date that is after the end of the fixed term (and must give 14 days notice). You won’t be liable to pay any lease break fees and the process for claiming your bond remains the same.

Option 2: Apply for an order

If you are suffering severe hardship, you can apply to VCAT to make an order reducing the term of your lease.

VCAT will make this order if it is satisfied that if the term of the agreement were not reduced, the severe harm which you will suffer will be greater than the severe hardship that your landlord will suffer (if the term were reduced). If VCAT makes this order, you won’t be liable to pay any lease break fees and the process for claiming your bond remains the same.

While the law does not define ‘severe harm’, VCAT will be looking for strong, compelling evidence of your hardship. Therefore, if applicable, the following sorts of evidence may be helpful:

  • your income, and the proportion of your income which is spent on rent;
  • your assets and amount of savings;
  • inability to borrow or access support from third parties; or
  • applications for government support.

If you have no other option and need to break your lease without your landlord’s agreement, you could unilaterally break your lease. To do this, you will need to advise your landlord in writing of your intention to leave and the exit date. Do not continue to pay rent after you have exited. If you do this, you should know that you will be liable for:

  1. rent for a reasonable period until a new tenant is found (note: it is not your responsibility to find the new tenant);
  2. A re-letting fee; and
  3. Advertising costs.

Contact us

If you want to learn more about how Anika can help you, fill in your details below, and we'll give you a call.

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