New data from the Peninsula Community Legal Centre (PCLC) indicates that 42% of renters seeking assistance from the organisation had received a notice to vacate their homes from their landlord, representing a 6% increase in the last 6 months. This increase occurred against a backdrop of a national rental crisis fuelled by record-low vacancies, a critical lack of affordable and social housing, and a cost of living crisis.
“The current situation for renters is worse than it has been for a number of generations,” said Jackie Galloway, chief executive officer of PCLC. “While it is encouraging that housing is high on the political agenda, the situation on the ground for our clients is becoming increasingly desperate. Our latest data confirms that the number of people facing eviction and homelessness continues to increase in our community.”
In the last 6 months, PCLC’s Tenancy and Advocacy Assistance Program assisted some 960 renters, representing a 37% increase, with 96% of these experiencing financial hardship. This is consistent with recent research that reveals four out of five Australians are experiencing rental stress.
“Our data illustrates that more landlords are wanting to remove renters at a time when it is almost impossible to find a new place that they can afford,” Ms Galloway said. “We have assisted many people who made between 50 – 100 unsuccessful rental applications after receiving a notice to vacate and who were facing the prospect of homelessness”.
The reasons behind the increase in notices to vacate are many and varied: in some cases the owner wants to renovate or sell, in others they may wish to move into the property themselves, while in others it may be due to rental arrears or allegations that the tenant has breached the lease. Of the 42% of renters approaching the organisation who have received notices to vacate, PCLC has been able to prevent 40% of evictions.
“We have been able to help many renters with significant wins,” said Ms. Galloway. “In many of these cases the renters had done nothing wrong. In others they were struggling to cope with massive rental hikes during a global cost of living crisis. There are a number of ways that we have been able to help them avoid eviction such as negotiating payment plans with their rental provider or by going to VCAT.”
For example, PCLC recently represented a single mother with 3 children at VCAT, who had been given a notice to vacate by her landlord in order to renovate the property. The tenant had unsuccessfully applied for 55 properties and had nowhere to go. In weighing up the competing interests of the rental provider and the tenants and the impact of a possession order on each of them, VCAT found that it was not reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances to make the family homeless and the eviction application was dismissed. In other cases the Tribunal has also blocked rent increases.
“It is a very tough situation at the moment and there simply isn’t enough affordable rental housing to go around,” said Ms. Galloway. “But if you are given a notice to vacate your rental property this does not automatically mean that you will be evicted. People who find themselves in this situation or who have other tenancy problems should contact PCLC to see if we can help. We are also calling on the government to invest in more support for programs such as our Tenancy Advice and Assistance Program to support renters to understand their rights and ensure that their tenancies can be sustained.”
The Peninsula Community Legal Centre’s Tenancy Advice and Assistance Program operates in the Southern Metropolitan and Bayside Peninsula regions of Melbourne. It provides free legal advice and assistance for people in private rental accommodation, rooming houses and caravan parks. For a free appointment contact PCLC at (03)9783 3600, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 27 July 2023
PENINSULA COMMUNITY LEGAL CENTRE