Courts out on COVID evictions

7 Apr 2020

Sarah (not her real name) is in her early 60s and resides in a small retirement village. Sarah fell into arrears and received a notice terminating (or purporting to terminate) her residency right as of last week.

When she had not vacated the property by the date set out on the notice, the village had the locks changed and warned her the police would be called if she returned to the premises, save for a specific date and time at which they would allow her to remove her belongings under supervision.

Sarah and her advocate from HAAG sought to negotiate with the village manager to allow her more time to remove the belongings. She was particularly concerned because, without such extra time, she would be forced to remain inside the unit with the removalists, packing while they worked, in possible violation of the then newly announced two-person rule and at risk to her and their health. The manager refused to make any concessions, or to allow her access to the unit save while the removalists and a village staff member was present.

No court or tribunal had assessed whether the notice of termination was valid or whether her residency right could be lawfully terminated. With the civil claims list at VCAT indefinitely suspended, and without access to legal counsel, there was no opportunity to obtain orders challenging the legality of the termination.