If you are 14 or more days in arrears with your rent, (ie cannot pay), and have not been able to agree to alternative payment arrangements with your landlord or agent, they can commence formal proceedings to evict you.

It’s important for you to understand your rights and options if you are in this position and to know that your landlord must comply with correct process.

When your payments are in arrears

Your landlord can commence eviction proceedings when your rent payments are 14 days in arrears. If your lease requires you to pay rent in advance, you will not be in arrears until after the payment was due. That is, on the due date you still have 14 days before any action can be taken against you. If you start to pay weekly, after the due date, the landlord cannot take action to have you evicted.

If you’re renting and you receive a Notice to Vacate from your landlord, don’t panic. This is the first stage of the eviction process, and there’s still time to negotiate a plan to catch up on outstanding rent and continue with your original lease if you want to stay on. But you should keep talking to your landlord, pay what you can afford, and tell them you want to work out how you can stay.

Your landlord is forbidden by law from locking you out of your rented premises or personally attempting to evict you. The only authority that can lawfully evict you from rented premises is the police, once they have received a valid Possession Order and a Warrant of Possession from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), which has been obtained by the landlord.

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Your landlord’s right to enter your premises

Your landlord cannot enter your rented premises whenever they like. They must comply with the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act, which lays out strict conditions for entry.

A landlord must provide notice in writing of an intended visit. They can only enter the premises between 8am – 6pm on any day except a public holiday.

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The eviction process

Your landlord must act lawfully in evicting you because of rent arrears.

Initially your landlord or agent must deliver a Notice to Vacate to you at your rented premises either by hand or by registered mail.

You do not have to move out of the property when you receive a Notice to Vacate. The notice gives you 14 days to vacate and is just the first step in taking the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). It’s not too late to try to negotiate a payment plan with your landlord, even if you have already tried this unsuccessfully.

The landlord should also provide you with a copy of an application for Possession Order they have submitted to VCAT with the Notice to Vacate. A VCAT hearing to obtain a processed Possession Order will take place following the 14-day Notice to Vacate period.

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VCAT hearing for eviction

The Tenants Union can help you prepare for a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) hearing for rental arrears. Feel free to contact them for advice on your individual circumstances.  You may also wish to read their online fact sheet Avoiding Eviction for Rent Arrears.

You must attend the VCAT hearing if you want to avoid eviction. At the hearing VCAT may give you up to 3 months to repay the arrears.  You will need a statement outlining your monthly or fortnightly income and expenditure, in order to show VCAT that you can pay the arrears. For help with regards to presenting your income and expenditure, please refer to our free MoneyHelp budget planner.  If you feel that you require assistance, please call our MoneyHelp financial counsellors on 1800 007 007, Monday – Friday, 9.30am – 5pm.

Even if VCAT grants the Possession Order, you can ask at the hearing for consideration on the grounds of hardship.  VCAT may postpone the eviction for up to 30 days.

If your landlord has a Possession Order and also obtains a Warrant of Possession from VCAT, the police can carry out the eviction. Depending on the conditions of the warrant, you might be evicted as early as the same day as the VCAT hearing.

If you are likely to be evicted you need to make arrangements for somewhere else to stay, If you have nowhere to go, the Tenants Union can direct you to crisis accommodation services.

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Financial assistance to avoid eviction

If you are at risk of becoming homeless because your rent payments are in arrears and your landlord has commenced processes to evict you, you may apply to a specialist housing agency to have part or all of your rental arrears paid as a short-term measure, however you should be aware that these specialist agencies have limited funds available each month, and therefore they may not be in a position to provide assistance.

For agencies in your area that may be able to help you, please contact MoneyHelp on 1800 007 007, Monday – Friday, 9.30am – 5pm.

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Emergency Accommodation

Should you find yourself in need of emergency accommodation, please contact the following agencies for assistance:

Victorian statewide number:

Freecall 1800 825 955 (24 hours).  Freecall from a landline or public phone from anywhere in Victoria to speak with a housing worker and to be referred to services and support in your local area.

The Salvation Army Crisis Centre:

Freecall 1800 627 727 (24 hours)

Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service:

Freecall 1800 015 188 (24 hours)

Melbourne Youth Support Service:

(03) 9614 3688 (Reverse call charges accepted)

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Further information

For tenancy advice and assistance, including tenants’ rights call the Tenants Union Advice Service/Tenants Union of Victoria (03 9416 2577) – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9am – 4pm and Wednesday 1pm – 8pm.

For more information on tenancy matters such as excessive rent, repairs and eviction call Consumer Affairs Victoria (1300 558 181) Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm

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