COVID-19 Update

Service Update – Housing Justice office open September 21st

We have adapted how we are working to ensure community safety. You’ll notice several changes on your next visit to our office.

From Monday 21st September, our office will be open to the community for walk-in enquiries. We will also continue to deliver a range of services remotely and encourage people to contact us by telephone.

Our new office opening hours are 9:00am to 4:00pm. Our phone lines will stay open until 5:00pm.

The health and safety of our clients, staff and the community remains our number one priority. We will be following official public health guidelines and a strict cleaning schedule to ensure that our offices are COVID safe.

All visitors to the office will be required to sign-in, wear a face mask, and follow instructions from our staff to help maintain social distancing. Masks and hand sanitiser will be available at reception.

If you have any feedback or questions about the steps we are taking to ensure our office is COVID safe, please call us or speak to one of our friendly reception staff on your next visit.

Phone: (03) 5445 0990 or FREECALL 1800 450 990 

Email: info@housingjustice.org.au  

Frequently Asked Questions  

Below are some answers to questions commonly asked by our clients. 

This information has been provided by Justice Connect. You can also visit their website here

Do I have to pay rent? 
Yes. You are still obliged to pay your ordinary rent, unless you or your household have been financially affected by COVID-19 and an agreement has been reached with your landlord to amend your rental agreement. We can help you negotiate with your real estate agent or landlord. Please call or email us for a telephone appointment. 

What if I fall behind in my rent? 
If you fall behind in rent, you can propose a payment plan to your landlord or real estate agent. We can help you to negotiate this. Please call or email us for a telephone appointment. You can also access online self-help resources including a letter writing tool on the Justice Connect website here. If you are in this position, you may want to access financial assistance to pay your rent and rent arrears (more information below).  

What if I can’t afford to pay rent due to COVID-19? 
The Victorian Government has just announced a new Rent Relief Grant to support tenants experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. This is a one-off payment of $2000 direct to your landlord or real estate agent to help with your rent.  

To be eligible for this grant, you must: 

  1. Have registered your rent reduction agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria, or have already been through mediation with Consumer Affairs Victoria; 
  1. Have less than $5000 in savings; 
  1. Have a household income that is less than $1903 per week; and 
  1. Be currently paying 30% or more of your income towards your rent. 

More information on the Victorian Government’s rent relief package can be found here.  

How do I ask for a rent reduction? 

Your first step should be to speak with your landlord or real estate agent. Some real estate agencies have created COVID-19 Rent Reduction application forms specifically for this purpose. If you need help negotiating with your real estate agent or landlord, please call or email us for assistance. 

If you can’t come to an agreement with your landlord or real estate agent, mediation services are available. Consumer Affairs Victoria will mediate disputes to ensure fair agreements are reached. Please contact us for assistance. 

What other financial assistance can I access? 

If you need additional financial support or you’re not eligible for the COVID-19 Rent Relief Grant, you can also apply for other financial assistance to help cover your rent and rent arrears. This is funded by the Victorian Government and distributed through the Housing Establishment Fund (HEF) and the Private Rental Assistance Program (PRAP). We can assist you in gaining access to this funding if you are eligible. This type of financial aid is not generally available for renters in public or community housing.  

If you’re struggling to pay rent or you have other debts and need financial advice, you can speak to a free financial counsellor through the National Debt Helpline by calling 1800 007 007. 

My estate agent has suggested I withdraw my super to pay rent. Should I do this? 
It is illegal for real estate agents to provide unlicensed financial advice. This includes advice about superannuation. You should only accept financial advice from a licenced provider. If you need help negotiating with your real estate agent or landlord, please call or email us for assistance. 

Can my landlord raise the rent? 

Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, the Victorian Government has put a temporary ban on rent increases for six months until 29 September 2020. New laws also come into effect on 1 July 2020 that limit how often landlords can increase rent. For leases starting on or after 19 June 2019, landlords can only increase rent once every 12 months. For leases starting before 19 June 2019, landlords can increase rent once every 6 months. 

Can I be evicted if I can’t pay rent? 
 
From 29 March, the Victorian Government has put a temporarily ban on most evictions. Until 2021, you cannot be issued with a Notice to Vacate if you are behind on rent due to COVID-19. If you have received a Notice to Vacate before or after 29 March 2020, please contact us for assistance. 

Legal Help 

Housing Justice can help you if you have a VCAT hearing coming up, or if you have missed a VCAT hearing.  

If you have any other legal issues, particularly related to family violence, child protection or parenting arrangements, the Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre provides free legal help. Phone: (03) 5445 0909 or FREECALL 1800 450 909. 

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