COVID-19 and being evicted

COVID-19 and being evicted

Renting laws in Victoria have changed because of COVID-19 coronavirus. These new laws will last until 26 September 2020. These laws give new rights to people who rent their homes (tenants). This includes people who live in a rooming house, caravan, residential park or specialist disability accommodation (residents).

If you are a tenant or resident, there are five things you need to know:

  • your landlord cannot give you a notice to vacate to evict you. If you have already been given a notice to vacate, it might not be legal
  • you can still be evicted but only if your landlord gets two orders from the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal – a termination order and a possession order
  • there are set reasons that a landlord can apply for a termination order and the tribunal must decide if it is fair to make the order
  • if your landlord got a possession order before 12 May 2020, they may not be able to evict you
  • if you are not sure about your rights, you can get legal advice. See Get help with housing and tenancy.

What if I have been given a notice to vacate?

Your landlord (the person you rent from), or their agent, can no longer evict you by giving you a notice to vacate. If you received a notice to vacate before 29 March 2020 that says you need to move out after 29 March 2020, the notice is not legal. Any notice to vacate given to you after 29 March 2020 is also not legal.

If you have received a notice to vacate, you should get legal advice. See Get help with housing and tenancy.

Can I be evicted?

Yes. You can still be evicted but only if your landlord gets two orders from the tribunal. Your landlord must get both:

  • a termination order
  • a possession order.

Your landlord must prove that they have a lawful reason to apply for a termination order. The tribunal will decide if it is fair to make the order.

You cannot be evicted for no reason or because your fixed term tenancy is about to end.

When can my landlord apply for a termination order?

There are 19 reasons a landlord can apply for a termination order. These include:

  • you have not paid rent or followed other rules about your tenancy, and you could follow those rules without experiencing severe hardship. For example, you can afford your rent but refuse to pay it
  • you have caused serious damage to the property, made neighbours unsafe or you have threatened or scared neighbours, the landlord, agent or people doing work for them
  • you have given someone else a lease over all or part of the property without your landlord’s agreement
  • you did not follow an order by the tribunal about your tenancy. For example, you had a pet when the tribunal ordered you not to
  • you have used the property to make, grow or traffic drugs or do something else that is against the law.

Your landlord can also apply for a termination order if:

  • they are moving back in, or their immediate family or people they support financially are moving in
  • they are selling the property
  • the property is to be repaired, renovated or demolished and you cannot live there while this happens.

There are other reasons, as well as reasons that may apply if you live in public housing. If your landlord has applied to the tribunal for a termination order, you should get legal help. See Get help with housing and tenancy.

Do I have to go to the tribunal?

If your landlord applies for a termination order, there will be hearing at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

You do not need to go to the tribunal in person. There will be a hearing by telephone which you will be told about. The tribunal will make a date and time to call you.

It is important that you answer your phone at the time of the hearing. Make sure you are available for a few hours, in case the tribunal is running behind or your hearing takes some time.

What happens at the hearing?

Your landlord will need to prove to the tribunal that they have a valid reason to apply for a termination order. For example, if your landlord is selling, they must provide evidence like a sales agency agreement or a contract of sale.

If you have fallen behind in rent, your landlord must prove that you can afford rent but have refused to pay it.

You will be able to ask the landlord questions about their reason and challenge it if you think it is wrong.

If the tribunal decides that the landlord’s reason is lawful, the tribunal will then decide whether it is fair to make a termination order.

The tribunal must not make a termination order if both of the following apply:

  • the reason your landlord applied is because you have not paid rent or followed the rules
  • you did not pay rent or follow the rules directly because of COVID-19 coronavirus. For example, if you lost your job because of COVID-19 coronavirus and cannot pay your rent, the tribunal should not make an order.

The tribunal must consider whether it is reasonable and proportionate. It must consider the following:

  • if the application is because you did something wrong, how serious it was, whether someone else caused it and whether you have tried to fix it
  • whether there is another option to fix the problem
  • your landlord or the real estate agent’s behaviour
  • if there is family violence or a personal safety intervention order
  • any other matter, such as how long you have lived there and how eviction would affect you and your family.

If the tribunal makes a termination order, it will decide the date you must leave by. There are minimum timeframes depending on the reason for the order. For example, if:

  • you caused serious property damage or danger, you may need to leave immediately
  • you used the property to do something that is against the law, you will be given at least 14 days
  • you have not paid rent when you could afford it, you will be given at least 28 days
  • your landlord or their family are moving back in, you will be given at least 60 days.

When can my landlord apply for a possession order?

If the tribunal makes a termination order but you do not move out, your landlord can apply to the tribunal for a possession order to evict you.

The tribunal can make a termination order and a possession order at the same time if it is fair in the circumstances.

However, there will usually be another hearing at the tribunal if your landlord applies for a possession order. If this happens, you should get legal help. See Get help with housing and tenancy.

You do not need to go to the tribunal in person. There will be a hearing by telephone. The tribunal will tell you the date and time of the hearing. The tribunal will call you for the hearing.

The tribunal must again consider whether it is reasonable and proportionate before making a possession order. See What happens at the hearing? for an explanation about what this means.

If a possession order says you must move out, but you do not, your landlord may get a warrant to evict you. Police can evict you if they have this warrant. Only police can evict you in these circumstances. Your landlord or someone else cannot forcibly evict you.

What if my landlord already has a possession order?

If your landlord got a possession order before 12 May 2020, but you are still in the property, you may have another hearing. You do not need to go to the tribunal in person. There will be a hearing by telephone. The tribunal will tell you the date and time of the hearing. The tribunal will call you for the hearing.

At the hearing, the landlord must prove they could get a possession order under the new laws. If the landlord cannot prove this, the tribunal will not give them a warrant to evict you.

If your landlord has a possession order, but you are still in the property and want to stay, you should get legal advice. See Get help with housing and tenancy.

Can I get help at the tribunal?

Yes. There have been changes to services at VCAT in response to COVID-19 coronavirus, but you can still get help.

You can get free legal advice:

  • before your court date – you can get legal advice or a referral to another service by calling Legal Help on 1300 792 387
  • on your hearing date – you can speak with a duty lawyer by asking the tribunal for one before or during your hearing.

More information

Learn more about legal issues and COVID-19 coronavirus

See COVID-19 and reducing your rent

See COVID-19 and ending your tenancy

See Consumer Affairs Victoria Coronavirus (COVID-19) and your rights

Visit our ‘Find legal answers’ page on Renting

Where to get help

See Get help with housing and tenancy

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