Victorian Government should introduce long-term rent relief and legal protections for renters

26 Aug 2021

A test case recently run pro bono by Justice Connect in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has renewed calls for the Victorian Government to introduce long-term, targeted supports for renters.

Acting on behalf of our client – who was issued an eviction notice 2 days after the Victorian Government’s COVID-19 eviction moratorium ended on March 28 – our lawyers argued that Victorian renters who could not pay their rent due to a COVID-19 reason* while the moratorium was in place cannot be evicted because of unpaid rent.

Although VCAT acknowledged that our client fell behind rent due to a valid COVID-19 reason, the Tribunal found our client’s eviction notice to be lawful – striking a blow to thousands more Victorian renters at risk of eviction for rental arrears accrued due to COVID-19.

In a recent interview with the Age, our Principal Lawyer Samantha Sowerwine said, “The impacts of this global pandemic didn’t end for people at the conclusion of the eviction moratorium on 28 March 2021.”

“It’s in everyone’s best interest, including renters and landlords, that the government support people to stay safely housed during a global pandemic.”

Victorian renters need targeted legal protections and financial supports from government

Even though VCAT determined Victorians unable to pay rent between March 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 cannot be forced to repay unpaid rent until after October 25, renters now face a greater risk of being evicted from their homes and further financial strain.

Victorian renters need a rental assistance support package that includes rental relief and targeted legal protections already afforded to commercial tenants.

Thousands of struggling Victorian businesses and commercial landlords can now receive rental assistance under a state and federal support package announced in August.

We know from our Homeless Law program, many Victorian renters are struggling from compounding crises and loss of income due to rolling lockdowns.

Since the COVID-19 rental protections ended on 28 March 2021, we have seen a 95% increase in renters facing eviction for unpaid rent, and a 64% increase in people using Dear Landlord – our self-help tool for renters who’ve fallen behind in rent.

Targeted legal supports and financial protections are essential to prevent people being evicted into homelessness and help them get back on their feet.

Read our media release

*A COVID-19 reason is defined in the legislation as illness, being unable to comply because of restrictions, being unable to comply without suffering severe hardship or as a result of any exceptional circumstance related to the pandemic.