Rent Arrears – get help early

We have recently seen an influx in clients seeking assistance with rent arrears problems. As we move into the festive season, which can be a difficult time financially, we look at what you or your clients can do to stay out of trouble with rent arrears.


How to avoid getting into rent arrears


Each day that you occupy the rental property without having paid rent, you will be one day overdue or in ‘rent arrears’. There are several things you can do to avoid this:


  • Ensure rent is paid on time


  • If you receive a pension or benefit from Centrelink, you may be able to have your rent deducted and paid using Centrepay, administered by Centrelink. Contact Centrelink for more information.


  • Seek advice from a financial advisor, or call one of the following services to speak to a financial counsellor:


  • Bethany  5278 8122
  • Diversitat 5221 6044
  • FMC (Mediation & Counselling) 1800 639 523
  • Money Help  1800 007 007 (phone counselling)
  • SalvoConnect  5223 2434



What to do if you get into rent arrears


If you are 14 days in rent arrears your landlord can issue you a Notice to Vacate. The 14 days may be in a row or may have accumulated over time by repeated late payments. Contact your landlord or real estate agent immediately if you are unable to make a payment for arrears to tell them when you will be paying. If the outstanding arrears cannot be paid in one payment, you should offer to pay them over time (for example, an extra $20 per week).  Do not offer to pay more than you can afford. Make the offer in writing and keep a copy – even if the landlord doesn’t accept your offer, you can use it later as evidence that you tried to resolve the problem.



What if there is a hearing at VCAT?


It is important to obtain legal advice to ensure you have the best opportunity to remain at the rental property.


If the landlord/agent has rejected your offer to pay a lump sum or pay over time, or you are unable to make payments, the landlord/agent must apply to VCAT in order to have you evicted.


You can only be evicted if:


  • There has been a hearing at VCAT; and


  • The Tribunal has granted the landlord a Possession Order; and


  • The landlord has purchased a Warrant of Possession; and\


  • The Police come to execute that warrant.


It is illegal for your landlord or agent to personally attempt to evict you.


If you receive a Notice of Hearing from VCAT and you do not want to be evicted, you must attend the Tribunal hearing. It is important to obtain legal advice prior to the hearing to ensure you have the best opportunity to remain at the rental property.


At the Tribunal hearing, the Tribunal Member can make a Possession Order or they can decide to either dismiss or adjourn the landlord’s application for a Possession Order. The Member may adjourn the application if:


  • You can show that a repayment plan has been agreed upon; or


  • You can show the Tribunal how you can pay off the arrears; and


  • The Landlord will not suffer further financial loss as a result.


You should take as much evidence as you can to the Tribunal hearing to show how you got into rent arrears and that you can pay the arrears. Evidence should include:


  • A statement from a financial counsellor that outlines your income and expenditure, or some kind of similar documentation;


  • Persons who can give evidence at the hearing to support your case.


BCLS can assist with residential tenancy matters, such as rent arrears. If you need advice, please contact our service on 1300 430 599.