Major changes to public tenant debt policy
The Victorian Ombudsman has been investigating the Office of Housing’s debt enforcement policy. The departments approach to vacated tenancies (billing former tenants for maintenance) has been a problem for years, and negotiations with the Departmemnt to improve the policies failed to produce results.
Now, the Ombudsman’s report has found that with regard to these debts, the Department has failed to meet the obligations of a social landlord, used VCAT improperly, pursued unreasonable ambit claims, wasted resources pursuing unrecoverable debts, and failed to address embedded cultural and historical practices, among other failings.
DHHS has agreed to major changes that will have a big, beneficial impact for many of our clients. In particular, DHHS has agreed that they will no longer require tenants to enter into repayment agreements before they get a housing offer, stop pursuing debts older than 15 years, and allow internal appeals of maintenance claims rather than going straight to VCAT.
This is great work which HAAG contributed to through our participation in the Federation of CLCs Tenancy Working Group.