Victoria’s leading tenancy legal service has urged the state government to implement a temporary ban on evictions during the coronavirus crisis.
Tenants Victoria chief executive Jennifer Beveridge said renters were “at greater risk” of contracting COVID-19 if they lost their homes, or needed to find new ones in the midst of the health emergency.
“We have been contacted by people being evicted right now by landlords, real estate agents and through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal continuing to make possession orders,” she said.
“This not only puts these individuals and families at risk, but it puts us all at risk as well.
“You can’t maintain social distance and follow the government’s health advice if you don’t have a home.”
Ms Beveridge called on Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz and Attorney-General Jill Hennessy to “order VCAT to cease issuing possession orders” for the time being, and “begin an urgent dialogue with the real estate industry about how we can all act for the benefit of the community”.
“These measures will save lives,” she said.
A government spokesperson said Ms Kairouz and Ms Hennessy had “no authority” under the relevant legislation to order VCAT to stop issuing possession orders.
“(But) we want to see providers working with renters who are facing reduced income or job loss due to the COVID-19 crisis on alternative measures that still allow renters to stay at the property, such as allowing rental arrears to be repaid over a reasonable period of time,” the spokesperson said.
Ms Beveridge said Tenants Victoria and other community legal centres had seen an increase in casual workers fearful their rental homes were at risk because they were unable to work due to the cancellation of events and public gatherings.
Meanwhile, a petition by Greens MP Jenny Leong demanding “no evictions in New South Wales” had attracted more than 750 signatures by Tuesday night.
Victorian renters who need help can contact the National Debt Helpline at ndh.org.au, Consumer Affairs Victoria’s Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program at consumer.vic.gov.au, or the Department of Health and Human Services’s housing assistance team via 1800 825 955 or housing.vic.gov.au.