COVID-19 and paying rent

COVID-19 and paying rent

There are changes to laws about renting in Victoria that will take effect from 29 March 2021.

These changes replace the temporary changes that were made in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The changes apply to paying rent if you are renting your home. If you live in a rooming house or caravan park, these changes only apply if you have a tenancy agreement.

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

  • applications for Victorian housing relief grants closed on 28 March and most agreements between landlords (now known as residential rental providers) and tenants (now known as renters) about reducing or delaying rental payments during the COVID-19 pandemic also ended on this date
  • if your rent is overdue and you cannot pay, there are new rules that apply from 29 March 2021. Your rental provider can give you notice to vacate but you do not have to move out on the termination date. If you pay your rent before the termination date the notice to vacate will not apply and nothing further will happen. You can go to the tribunal to ask for more time to pay or a payment plan
  • if you receive a notice to vacate, you should make sure you attend the tribunal hearing. This is very important as the tribunal may make a possession order for eviction if you do not attend  
  • there are new laws limiting rent increases to once every 12 months for new rental agreements
  • if you are not sure about your rights, you can get legal advice. See Get help with housing and tenancy.

 

What if I cannot pay my rent?

If you cannot pay your rent and you owe money to your rental provider (landlord), this is called rent arrears. Arrears means overdue.

If you are in rent arrears your rental provider can give you a notice to vacate but you do not have to move out on the termination date. If you pay your rent before the termination date the notice to vacate will not apply and nothing further will happen. You can go to the tribunal to ask for more time to pay or a payment plan.

If you receive a notice to vacate, you should make sure you attend the tribunal hearing. This is very important as the tribunal may make a possession order for eviction if you do not attend.

Currently, tribunal hearings are by phone or video conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You will be advised whether your hearing will be by video conference or by telephone and the tribunal will make a date and time to call you.

If your hearing is by telephone, 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.

The Tenants Victoria website has more information about what to do if your rent is overdue or you cannot pay.

Can I get help at the tribunal?

You can get help if you need to go to the tribunal for a tenancy dispute. There have been changes to services at the tribunal in response to COVID-19 coronavirus, but you can still get help.

You can get free legal advice:

  • before your hearing 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.

Can my landlord increase my rent?

From 29 March 2021 there are new laws limiting rent increases for new rental agreements to once every 12 months.

See the Tenants Victoria website for more information.

Can I be evicted?

Your rental provider may give you a notice to vacate if you do not pay your rent, however they cannot lock you out of a property you are renting or evict you themselves.

Only the police can evict you, after all the legal steps have been followed. See COVID-19 and being evicted.

There are housing services that may be able to help you if you are in rent arrears. Call 1800 825 955 (24 hours toll free) to connect with these services.

More information

The Tenants Victoria website has more information about changes to laws about renting in Victoria that will take effect from 29 March 2021.

Learn more about legal issues and COVID-19 coronavirus

See COVID-19 and ending your tenancy

See COVID-19 and being evicted

Visit our ‘Find legal answers’ page on Renting

Where to get help

See Get help with housing and tenancy

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