Dear Landlord: a legal self-help tool assisting Victorian renters to stay housed

12 Jul 2021

We have launched a new version of Dear Landlord to coincide with the commencement of Victoria’s rental reforms.

Each year, over 18,000 VCAT applications are made to evict Victorian renters for falling behind in rent. Through our holistic legal services, we know that financial insecurity is one of the main reasons that people face eviction into homelessness.

The temporary COVID-19 eviction moratorium played a significant role in supporting renters to stay safely housed during COVID-19. However, due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19 and the start of Victoria’s new rental laws, there are many renters struggling with financial hardship and debt who are now likely to face eviction due to rent arrears.

Redeveloping Dear Landlord to help renters understand their rights and take action to avoid eviction

Illustration of a young man using Dear Landlord on his phone.

On 29 March, Justice Connect launched a new version of Dear Landlord to coincide with the commencement of Victoria’s rental reforms.

Recognising the need for greater support in helping renters self-advocate and understand their rights, Dear Landlord helps identify the options considering the renter’s circumstances, and based on their answers:

  • Generates a customised payment plan to negotiate payment of rent arrears with the person’s rental provider
  • Helps renters navigate VCAT proceedings, including generating VCAT review applications for renters who have missed VCAT hearings
  • Helps renters understand their rights under the new rent arrears process
  • Provides renters with information on ending leases
  • Provides renters with information on the transitional process if they have COVID-19 rent reduction agreements or orders
  • Refers renters for specialised legal and financial help where it matters most.

This tool was developed with extensive consumer research and consultation to ensure that it is responsive, relevant and impactful for people who need it most.

“It explained very clearly the requirements, the process from start to finish, and [I felt] less ashamed of needing financial assistance to begin with. Dear Landlord not only gave me the information I needed, it turned a mountain back into an achievable task […] Did not in a million years think this kind of service was out there – free of charge,” said a Dear Landlord user.

The latest version of the online tool has been well received by users, with continuous improvements and adjustments planned by our Homeless Law program. We continue to invite renters into the design process so that Dear Landlord can evolve and continue to meet the legal needs of Victorian renters.

Any Victorian renters struggling to pay rent can use Dear Landlord. Feel free to share the tool across your networks and through your communities.

This article was first published in Law Institute Victoria’s June 2021 Law Institute Journal.