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A word from our CEO

Our state is about to reach its 80% double-dose vaccination target. We’re also just weeks away from 90%.

As we return to life resembling the one we used to know, let’s not forget that deep challenges remain for those renters who’ve taken a financial hit during the ongoing pandemic.

The Federal Government’s disaster payment is tapering off and will be gone entirely in a couple of weeks. This decision assumes our economy will snap back immediately. Meanwhile, in the absence of an eviction moratorium in our state, renters carrying significant debts from arrears face the risk of being evicted from their home in coming months.

I urge people who might be eligible for the Victorian Government’s targeted rent relief grant – which is still available and worth up to $1500 – to apply for support as soon as possible. I also urge landlords and real estate agents to exercise compassion in these still tricky times.

Stay well and safe everyone,

Jennifer Beveridge
CEO, Tenants Victoria

That winning feeling!

Renters have rights - it’s a theme we press at Tenants Victoria.

So a hard-won congratulations to Kelly Chan (pictured right) who exercised her rights and went to VCAT to reclaim her bond which was denied to her after she was forced to break her fixed term lease last year due to severe financial hardship. Kelly, an international student, had lost her casual job and relied on emergency pandemic rental laws in place then to move out. Her landlord, however, kept insisting that she must continue to pay rent and advertising costs until a new tenant was found, contrary to the emergency law.

At a contested hearing this month, where she was represented by Tenants Victoria lawyer Jacqui Solomon, VCAT finally determined Kelly was entitled to a full refund of her bond and the landlord was not entitled to any lease breaking costs.

Public health directions

As the state emerges from lockdown, the public health rules on rental inspections and rights of entry are due to change again as we reach our 80% double-dose vaccination target this week.

Currently across Victoria tradespeople can enter a rental home to carry out any repairs needed. Sales inspections are also allowed to go ahead, but if you live in Melbourne they can only go ahead by private appointment.

See the Victorian Government’s COVIDSafe settings for the most up to date information.

Disaster payments to disappear 

As Victoria approaches the 80% double-vaccinated milestone for people aged 16 years and over, public health restrictions will further ease. If you have been relying on the COVID-19 disaster payments, you also need to be aware the amounts paid will now also be cut down over a period of up to 2 weeks. After this happens, the specific COVID-19 disaster payment won’t be available at all in our state.

See the Services Australia website for more information on how these Federal Government social security changes may affect you.

Apply now: rent relief

People who are eligible can still apply for the Victorian Government's one-off pandemic rental relief grant worth up to $1500 which is paid as contribution towards rent.

There are steps involved to qualify for the rent relief grant – see our dedicated webpage for a simple breakdown of the eligibility criteria or listen to our latest Facebook Q&A episode where we chat about some of the pre-requisites to help you assess whether you may be eligible.

Our client services

Our skilled and passionate team of rental lawyers and advocates have been critical in supporting renters during the pandemic. As we emerge into 2022, they are undergoing a name change to reflect the integrated approach to direct services that we are increasingly taking. Apart from our lawyers, we also have intake workers, a financial counsellor and a rooming-house outreach worker at the frontline of our work.

In recognition of this, our Legal Services Team rebranded this month as Client Services. The team is led by Agata Wierzbowski (pictured), whose title has changed to the Director of Client Services.

Workers' rental rights

Director of Community Engagement Farah Farouque and lawyer Georga Wootton this month held a renting rights session for people working in hospitality, media, entertainment and the arts.

This group has done it particularly tough over the past 18 months, facing insecure work and financial instability.

The session was held jointly, online with the unions covering those industries – the United Workers Union and the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance. You can catch up on the discussion here.

New report on financial pressures

The welfare group Uniting has released a timely new report No Fighting Chance with the Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University. It examines what the end of full COVID-19 income and tenancy supports has meant for the people that needed them most.

The report provides key insights into the lives of everyday people and strengthens the broader community sector calls for increased income supports, including rent assistance and investment in social housing.

Homelessness conference

The Victorian Homelessness Conference 2021 is on next month.

Run by the Council to Homeless Persons, it’s an opportunity for workers, consumers, and policy makers in the homelessness sector to get together and talk about emerging practices, ways of thinking, and look at successful programs.

Visit their website to register.

Family violence protections

There are protections for people affected by family violence in Victoria’s rental laws.

Our Family Violence Protection Tenancy Kit, designed for support workers who assist people affected by family violence, contains vital information about the measures in Victoria’s rental laws, including protecting bonds and making safety modifications.

Download a copy here.

Tenancy news

In media this month, our Director of Community Engagement, Farah Farouque, spoke to Domain about a new stress point for renters with the looming end of COVID-19 disaster payments, which sustained many people in a very challenging environment.

Contact us

Visit our website to find answers to many questions – it’s a free community resource for renters.

Our legal team answers renters’ questions via phone and email. We thank everyone for their patience during this time as we are experiencing very high demand.

Our tenant advice line is available from Monday to Friday, 10am-2pm. Get in touch via our Contact us page – we will respond as quickly as possible.


 

Tenants Victoria
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