Aaron, a single parent, aged 40, was struggling financially and had fallen behind in his rent. His landlord took action in VCAT for rent arrears and possible possession. Aaron represented himself and managed to negotiate a resolution whereby the landlord allowed him to remain in the property if he submitted to a payment plan to cover the arrears. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, Aaron failed to comply with the payment arrangement and the landlord renewed proceedings. Aaron now owed in excess of $4,000 in unpaid rent.
When our duty advocate arrived at VCAT she was alerted by court security staff that there was a client who was highly agitated and would most likely require assistance. Aaron, who was accompanied by his mother, was suffering from some serious mental health issues. He was too unwell to provide clear instructions but gave authority for his mother to speak on his behalf.
Our advocate liaised with the VCAT registrar who suggested that arrangements be made for the hearing to proceed as soon as possible. Our advocate contacted the property manager acting for the landlord, who kindly agreed to be there within half an hour.
With our advocate acting on behalf of Aaron, the parties negotiated that the tenancy would come to an end within a week. A VCAT order was made accordingly by consent. The property manager advised that in the circumstances the landlord would not be pursuing the outstanding rent arrears.
It is unclear what would have happened if Aaron had not been able to avail himself of our duty service. The excellent negotiating skills of our advocates and their good working relationship with VCAT were definitely in Aaron’s favour. Without the $4,000 rent arrears hanging over his head he can work on getting healthy and caring for his family.