Information for older renters under new COVID-19 laws
This information is provided for older renters in Victoria, covering some of the new programs that can help with your tenancy and important changes to renting laws during the covid-19 pandemic.
It is not legal advice, and the programs and laws it discusses are all subject to change. If you need advice about your rights or housing options, please feel free to call us on 1300 765 178.
What programs can assist renters who are struggling to pay the rent?
The Victorian Government has set up two new processes to assist renters during this time. A new Dispute Resolution scheme aims to help tenants negotiate with their landlords to reduce their rent. If you reach agreement, Consumer Affairs can register your agreement so there is a clear record. The process is outlined here, along with advice about working out how much you can afford to pay and how to start negotiating:
If you and your landlord can’t reach an agreement to reduce your rent, or if the landlord or agent refuse to negotiate in good faith, contact Consumer Affairs Victoria. They will arrange mediation by the Chief Dispute Settlement Officer. HAAG recommends getting advice, either from us or another tenancy advocacy service, before settling on any new agreement with your landlord. The landlord will probably be represented by their real estate agent, and you should make sure you also get appropriate advice and/or representation.
A Rental Relief Grant can be paid directly to your landlord or agent which contributes (up to $2000) to your rental payments. However, this only applies if:
- You have to have already negotiated a rent reduction and submitted your paperwork to Consumer Affairs Victoria
- You have less than $5000 in savings You have a household income of less than $1903/ week
- You have lodged or are about to lodge a bond with the Residential Bond Authority
- Your finances have been reduced by 20% or more due to Coronavirus
- You can still be eligible for a rental relief grant if you are in a share house but you must be on the lease.
- If you are struggling to pay the rent and your income has NOT been affected by the virus, you will not be eligible for the rental relief grant.
If you’d like information about more affordable housing options, please call our intake line.
Will I have to pay back reduced rent?
If you and your landlord agreed to a reduced amount of rent you will just go back to paying your usual amount of rent after the end of the agreement. If you agreed to defer your rent you will pay the reduced amount for the agreed period and will have to pay back the deferred amount when the agreement is over. HAAG strongly recommends that you DO NOT agree to a rent deferral without first getting advice from us or a tenant advocacy service. See advice from Tenants Victoria.
Should you stop paying rent?
If you stop paying rent altogether you are very likely to be evicted. If you can no longer afford to pay your full rent please see the sections about negotiating a reduction above, or call HAAG for advice about other housing options.
Can you be still be evicted?
From March 29 to September 26, the normal eviction processes will not apply. Your landlord can only evict you from the property if they apply to VCAT for a Termination Order, and satisfy the Tribunal that eviction is ‘fair and reasonable’ in the circumstances. If your landlord applies for a termination order, please contact us urgently for advice. For more information, see advice from Tenants Victoria.
What if you get a notice to vacate?
If you get a Notice to Vacate on or after 29 March 2020, and before 26 September 2020, the notice is not legal. This means you do not have to leave. Call HAAG or your local Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program agency for advice as soon as possible.
Can my rent get raised?
No, you cannot get a rent increase until after September 26. Consumer Affairs has more information on this.
Housing for the Aged Action Group
If you need more information about any of the above, please call us on 9654 7389 or 1300 765 178.
Unfortunately, Consumer Affairs is not currently operating a phone service. You can contact them regarding a covid-19-related rental agreement or dispute via their online form
Tenancy Advice and Advocacy
You can find a local tenant advice and advocacy service here.