Peninsula Community Legal Centre (PCLC) has responded to a recent report on the legal needs of the South East Metro Region, identifying Pakenham and Narre Warren as high need areas with a high proportion of rental properties.
To address these needs, PCLC operates the Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program (The Program). The Program, supported by the Victorian Government, provides free residential tenancy advice, assistance and VCAT representation to eligible tenants who are financially disadvantaged and/or experiencing family violence in the Southern region.
The Director of Legal Services at the Centre, Kate Ross, said eviction notices and bond/compensation claims (by landlords and tenants), made up the majority of matters assisted by PCLC during the last six months. Assistance was also provided in a number of urgent/non-urgent repair matters and lease breaking due to family violence.
An ongoing problem is some private tenants and those living in caravan parks and rooming houses, don’t always understand their rights and responsibilities. As Ms Ross says “There are strict limits on rental bonds and any claims by landlords must be lodged with the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) within 10 business days of the tenant vacating”. The problem is often matters end up at VCAT unchallenged because the tenant is too busy securing tenancy (in a difficult market), needs a good reference and is unaware a claim has been lodged against them.
Recently, the Centre has seen an increase in the number of excessive and unfair bond and compensation claims by landlords. A good example is Vanessa. She is dependent on Parenting Payments along with casual employment. When she wanted to leave her rental property, her landlord wouldn’t return her bond. PCLC helped her lodge a claim for breach of duty by the landlord to provide a quiet and safe premise for her to live in. She was represented by the Centre at a VCAT hearing, where the matter was settled and Vanessa received her bond back in full. Without the assistance of the Centre, clients that are in vulnerable circumstances would have nowhere else to turn.
Without the Centre’s Program many people in difficult and extreme circumstances would be further disadvantaged and at risk of ending up homeless. Over 100,000 Australians are currently homeless with 17,845 being children under 12. The leading cause of homelessness is domestic and family violence*.
Our Tenant Advocates visit the Casey North Community Information & Support Service every Tuesday and the Pakenham Living & Learning Centre on Thursday. Appointments can be made by calling our central number 9783 3600. We also operate an Intake Assessment Response (IAR), which has the ability to quickly respond to referrals or walk-ins.
Peninsula Community Legal Centre provides free legal services; operating since 1977 from offices in Frankston, Bentleigh, Cranbourne, Rosebud and Frankston North. Lawyers from the Centre also provide outreach services to Hastings and Chelsea. The Centre operates duty lawyer services at Dandenong Family Law Courts and Frankston Magistrates’ Court Family Violence Service. The Centre also helps with tenant and rooming house issues.
For more information about free legal services, please call (03) 9783 3600 or visit www.pclc.org.au.
*Source: Homelessness Australia
21 February 2018
PENINSULA COMMUNITY LEGAL CENTRE INC.