End Evictions to Protect Older Renters

Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG) today is calling for a moratorium on evictions as part of Victoria’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Nobody should lose their home during this pandemic, or because of it,” said the group’s Chair, Phyll Williams.  “Older people are the fastest-growing segment of the private rental market, and the most vulnerable to the coronavirus.  The government must ensure that renters aren’t put on the street, where they will be completely unable to take any social-distancing or self-isolation measures.”

 “Even for young and able-bodied people, an eviction unavoidably involves a large amount of social contact. The usual systems and processes like attending open-house inspections or queuing outside support services are now unacceptably risky,” said HAAG Executive Officer Fiona York.

A moratorium on evictions would mean

  • Cancelling or adjourning all Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) applications for possession
  • Suspending all current possession orders or warrants of possession

“One risk is that people who are self-isolating won’t be able to attend hearings, and may be unfairly evicted as a result,” said Ms York. “Even worse, a contagious person might attend a crowded courthouse to contest an eviction, which often means literally hours in a packed waiting room, potentially infecting many more vulnerable people.”

We are calling for the Department of Health and Human Services – Victoria’s biggest landlord – and all Community housing providers to lead by example and not evict older people into homelessness.

“It would be absolutely unconscionable for organisations that are supposed to help our most vulnerable citizens to evict people into homelessness during this state of emergency,” said Ms York.

According to VCAT’s 2018/19 annual report, the Tribunal heard 14,443 possession applications over the financial year. This would have represented just a fraction of the tenants who received eviction notices in the same period – that is, only those who contested the notices, or failed to move out.

Another concern is for casual and contract workers losing hours as businesses close or restrict operations, who may fall into arrears and face eviction. A moratorium on evictions could also require assistance or suspension of mortgage repayments for private landlords.

Fiona York is available for further comment and can be reached on 0449554142 or at fiona.york@oldertenants.org.au.