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Housing

(Sustaining Tenancies At Risk)

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STAR Housing Property Kit


Make sure you ask for advice/assistance from one or more Agencies listed in this booklet if you are having issues with your rent. Ask for assistance early.

Paying Rent • Where possible, if you are receiving Centrelink payments, you can arrange for your rent to be paid through Centrepay or set up a direct deposit for rent through your bank. If you must pay cash, set yourself one day each week or fortnight when you will make the payments. • For Cash Payments always ask for a receipt as it is your only way to show the rent was paid should there be a dispute about rent. Make sure the receipt includes a statement of when rent is paid to. • Always keep your rent 14 days in advance and maintain regular payments. •

Speak to your landlord /real estate agent as soon as you have any problems with your rental payments.


Inspections • Make yourself available for routine inspections. Making it difficult for the Landlord or Agent to inspect your property may lead them to believe that you are hiding something. •

Prior to an inspection, give the property a good clean inside and out even if you have recently cleaned.

Make sure you remove all clutter (throw out any rubbish) and have the dishes done and put away.

Animals You are responsible for your pet’s behaviour and can be breached for your pet being a nuisance, including constantly barking, jumping at the fence or causing any damage to the property such as damage to fly screens, curtains, or digging. You cannot be evicted for getting a pet after you have moved into your property, however you can be if your pet is causing a nuisance or damage.


Condition of the Property when you leave Regardless of what the condition of your property is in when you moved in (even if you had to do a lot of cleaning or the garden was full of weeds), you must leave the property clean inside and out when you leave, or your landlord can claim cleaning costs at VCAT (Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal). Although this may sound unfair it is what the Residential Tenancies Act states.


Terminating a tenancy A Tenancy does not come to an end unless either party gives notice. If your lease has expired and you wish to vacate, you must give the landlord 28 days written notice. If you are still under a lease and wish to vacate you will be ‘breaking your lease.’ You should notify your landlord /Real Estate Agent in writing the date you intend to leave and give as much notice as possible. If you are breaking your lease, you may have to pay rent until the new tenant moves in, as well as fees such as a lease break fee and advertising fees. You need to consider the potential costs involved carefully before you decide to break your lease. If you are under a lease and need to break your lease due to circumstances which will cause you financial hardship, you may be able to apply to VCAT to end your fixed term tenancy early. You may need to seek advice from Consumer Affairs or the Private Rental Advocate.


VCAT Tribunal hearings At VCAT the ‘judge’ is called a member and should be addressed as Sir or Madam. The member hearing the case will make decisions based on the evidence presented in front of them and use a balance of probability when the evidence is not clear. It is important that when you attend a hearing that you have all your evidence with you and bring any witnesses along if you think they will help prove your case. You should bring all documentation to the hearing. If you do not have the documents you will not get another opportunity to provide them, it is a good idea to have spare copies as you will need to show them to the other party as well as to the member. Prepare in advance what you want to say and make notes to remind yourself. You will need to either swear on the bible or take an oath of affirmation, the member will either ask you to repeat after them or it will be written on a card on the desk. If you are late the hearing may have gone ahead without you make sure you arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of your scheduled hearing time. If you require assistance at a hearing you may be eligible for a referral to an advocate. Consumer Affairs can be contacted on (03) 5723 6400 local office or 1300 55 81 81 Rural Housing Advocate: (03) 5722 8000 (The advocate will assess your eligibility for assistance)


What do I do if the landlord won’t make repairs? If the repair is urgent, you can apply to VCAT (The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal) if your landlord fails to complete the repairs. At the hearing VCAT can make an order that the repairs be done. Applications can be completed online at www.vcat.vic.gov.au or you can pick up a hard copy of the form from Consumer Affairs. If you have trouble completing the form and representing yourself at VCAT, please contact the Private Rental Advocate on 03 5722 8000. An Urgent repair includes the following: • burst water service • blocked or broken toilet system • serious roof leak • gas leak • dangerous electrical fault • flooding or serious flood damage • serious storm or fire damage • failure or breakdown of any essential service or appliance provided by a landlord or agent for hot water, water, cooking, heating, or laundering • failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply • any fault or damage in the premises that makes the premises unsafe or insecure • an appliance, fitting or fixture that is not working properly and causes a substantial amount of water to be wasted •

a serious fault in a lift or staircase.

If a repair does not fit into the urgent repair category it is called a non-urgent repair- if your landlord has not completed this repair you will need to serve a Notice to Landlord giving the landlord 14 days to have the repair completed. This form can be found on the Consumer Affairs (CAV) Website www.consumer.vic.gov.au or can be obtained from your local CAV office.


Reporting Maintenance When reporting maintenance, putting the request in writing is always best. If your agent has a maintenance request form complete the form and ask for a copy of the form, as this is a way of proving that you have asked for the repairs if they do not get done. If it is not possible to put the request in writing, make sure that you record the details of your phone call: including the date, time, person you spoke to and make a note of what was said.


Can my landlord come in to my home without permission? No, there are rules about when a landlord or Real Estate Agent can enter a property. This may be at a date and time you agree to, however this agreement should not be made more than seven days before the agreed time of entry. OR The landlord can serve a ‘Notice of Entry’ and enter if they give you 24 hours written notice, in order to: • carry out duties listed in the tenancy agreement or relevant laws • value the property • show prospective buyers or financial lenders through the premises • show prospective tenants through the premises (within 14 days of a current lease termination date) • verify a reasonable belief that the tenant has not met their duties • make one general inspection in any six-month period, but not within the first three months of the tenancy. The notice must be hand delivered between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm, or posted (allowing extra time for postal delivery). They can only enter with a notice between the hours of 8:00 am and 6:00 pm on any day except for public holidays. If you are home, you must let the landlord in, providing the appropriate notice has been given or you agreed to the time. You can be breached for failing to permit entry. If you are not home the landlord can still enter providing they have given suitable written notice. It is however recommended that a time is agreed to when you are at home for a landlord visit as it will help avoid possible disputes. Whether the Landlord is entering by agreement or after having given 24 hours’ notice, the landlord cannot: • enter in an unreasonable way • stay any longer than necessary to do what is required, unless it is with your permission.


Notices to Vacate If you receive a Notice to Vacate from your landlord or agent, do not just leave on the date specified unless you have found another rental property that you are happy with. Seek advice immediately on the Notice, to make sure it is valid and the Landlord is following the correct process to evict you.

CONSUMER AFFAIRS: (03) 5723 6400

RURAL HOUSING PRIVATE RENTAL ADVOCATE: (03) 5722 8000


Breach Notices You can be breached and potentially evicted for your behaviour and that of your visitors. To avoid potential breaches: •

Respect the peace, comfort and privacy of neighbours – treat your neighbours with respect and how you would like to be treated– would you like to be kept awake by music or people yelling?

Keep any music to an acceptable level at all times (if you can hear the music from outside the property it is probably too loud).

On special occasions it is a good idea to notify your neighbours that you will be having a party and register your party with police and perhaps even notify your real estate agent or landlord.

Remember you are responsible for your visitors. If visitors are behaving badly ask them to leave.

Remember that noise limits apply even during the day.

If your property is damaged, you are responsible for repairs, even if accidental. You must notify your landlord of the damage and have it repaired as soon as possible to prevent action being taken against you.

If damage has occurred as a result of a Criminal Act you must report it to the police and have the person charged.


Maintaining the Property You can be breached and possibly evicted if you fail to keep the property clean and tidy. Landlords and Agents can inspect the property by giving you a Notice if they believe you are not maintaining the property. EXTERNAL CLEANING: •

Make sure you mow and edge your lawn and weed the garden beds on a regular basis - every few weeks.

Remove all rubbish from the property and do not store old damaged property on verandahs – dispose of it.

INTERNAL CLEANING: •

Vacuum carpets and sweep and wash floors on a regular basis.

Clean bathrooms: showers, toilets, baths and vanities regularly (recommend every two weeks as an absolute minimum).

Wipe down all kitchen surfaces and clean oven, grill and stovetop with a specialised product on a regular basis – wiping down spills when they happen will make cleaning easier.


Private Rental Advocate The Private Rental Advocate (PRA) can provide tenancy information and advice, negotiate with landlords/agents on behalf of a tenant regarding tenancy issues, help a tenant prepare for a VCAT hearing and attend VCAT with a tenant to assist them at a hearing. The PRA can assist with: • Notices to Vacate – Provide advice on the process, determine if a notice is valid, help defend a notice at a VCAT hearing • VCAT hearings – provide advice on the process and what is expected, assist with preparing documentation and potential arguments for a hearing, attend the hearing with the tenant • Rent Arrears – Negotiate payment plans with Landlords or through VCAT • Urgent Repairs – Assist with VCAT paperwork/process and attend the hearing with the client • Non-Urgent Repairs – Help to follow the process and complete the paperwork where repairs can not be negotiated • Assist with arranging an adjournment of a hearing when you can not attend or assist with a review application and hearing when an order has been made and you were not able to be present at the hearing. An advocate can not attend a hearing on your behalf if you are not going to be present. The PRA can not assist with: • Tenant Vs Tenant Disputes • Neighbourhood Disputes • Issues relating to your landlord not covered by the RTA The Private Rental Advocate’s role is providing Advocacy not Support. If support is required you can be referred to a support agency for assistance with your support needs. For further information please contact the Private Rental Advocate at Rural Housing Network. Contact details: Ph: 03 5722 8000 Fax: 03 5722 4964 Email: pra@rhnl.org.au


USEFUL CONTACTS: CONSUMER AFFAIRS: (03) 5723 6400 (local) or 1800 133 055 RURAL HOUSING NETWORK LIMITED: 43 Wyndham Street SHEPPARTON (03) 5833 1000 82 High Street WODONGA (02) 6055 9000 40-42 Rowan Street WANGARATTA (03) 5722 8000 12A Tallarook Street SEYMOUR (03) 5735 2000 RURAL HOUSING NETWORK LIMITED PRIVATE RENTAL ADVOCATE: (03) 5722 8000 FOR UNDER 25’s: NESAY 86-90 Rowan Street WANGARATTA (03) 5720 2201


STAR

Housing

(Sustaining Tenancies At Risk) Booklet created by STAR Housing - Sustaining Tenancies At Risk

Web: www.starhousing.org E-mail: starhousing@rhnl.org.au Phone: 03 5833 1000 Fax: 03 5831 8918


Star Housing Property Kit