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Home of Your Own

A self help tool for renters affected by family violence

Avoiding eviction

Information about the evictions process, attending a VCAT hearing, and avoiding eviction during or after an experience of family violence.

How the evictions process works 

You cannot be evicted unless the rental provider follows all the legal steps. The steps are: 

  1. The rental provider gives you a valid notice to vacate. 
  2. The rental provider applies to VCAT for a possession order. 
  3. VCAT makes a possession order telling you when you have to leave by. 
  4. The police attend your property with a warrant of possession to evict you.  

        If the rental provider does not follow these steps, you do not have to move out. Rental providers and real estate agents cannot personally evict you, they must follow the legal process. 

        A notice to vacate is the initial step in the eviction process. It is a document that the rental provider must give you when they want you to move out, and it is required that they use the correct form. The document will be titled ‘Notice to Vacate’ and will look like this. A text message, email or verbal statement asking you to leave is not considered a valid notice to vacate by VCAT. 

        You do not need to leave your home by the date on the notice to vacate. If you don’t move out the rental provider can apply to VCAT for a possession order.

        VCAT will decide whether to make a possession order at a hearing. If VCAT makes a possession order, it will tell you the date that you have to move out by. You do not need to leave your home until a possession order has been made by VCAT.

        Only Victoria Police can carry out an eviction, and only when they are acting on a VCAT possession order. When the police evict you, they will attend with a warrant of possession which allows them to remove you with force from the property. If someone other than the police are trying to evict you, call the Victoria Legal Aid advice line on 1300 792 387 (Mon-Fri, 8am-6pm). 

        Can I get evicted for something related to family violence?
        If you have experienced family violence, and you have been given notice to vacate (NTV) that is connected to your experience of family violence, you can ask for VCAT declare the notice to vacate invalid. This is called challenging a notice to vacate.  If VCAT orders that the notice to vacate is invalid, it means that you can stay in the property and you are no longer being evicted. 

        For example, if you are given a notice to vacate for serious damage to your front door but the front door was damaged due to family violence, you would be able to challenge the notice to vacate.

        To challenge the notice to vacate on the basis of family violence, you must lodge an application with VCAT within 30 days of receiving the notice to vacate. See Challenging a notice to vacate based on family violence below for more.

        If you are outside the 30 day timeframe, you may still be able to challenge the notice to vacate at a possession order hearing. You may need to apply for an extension of time. If you are in this position, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.   

        Attending a VCAT hearing

        Before a hearing you can speak to a lawyer to help you prepare your case. You may also be able to get legal representation, see our list of free legal help. It's important to contact a legal service as early as possible to give you enough time to prepare for your hearing.

        If you cannot find a lawyer to assist you with your hearing, you can represent yourself. You can read about representing yourself at VCAT's website.

        If you have received a notice to vacate, your rental provider can apply to VCAT for a possession order and this will be listed for a hearing. Most hearings will be by phone or video call. It is important that you go to your hearing because VCAT can make a decision even if you are not there.

        Gather any documents, witnesses (or statements from witnesses) and evidence that you need to prove your side of the story. Write down what you want to say at the hearing including: what happened, a timeline with relevant dates and events, what you did, and what the other party did. You can speak to a family violence service who might be able to help you gather evidence of the family violence you have experienced. 

        You will receive a notice in the mail or by email which will show you the date, time and location of the hearing. If you misplaced the notice, you can call VCAT on 1300 018 228 to check the details. 

        What happens at a VCAT hearing?
        At VCAT, the member will hear from both sides before making a decision. VCAT will ask to hear from your rental provider (or real estate agent) first, and then will want to hear your side of the story. If you have co-renters who attend the hearing, VCAT will also want to hear from them.

        After VCAT has heard both sides of the story and looked at your evidence, they will consider whether it is 'reasonable and proportionate’ to end your rental agreement. VCAT will consider the impact that a possession order would have on you, your household or co-renters, the rental provider, and if relevant, any neighbours impacted by your actions or behaviour.

        You should be prepared to tell VCAT about the impact that an eviction would have on you, including: 

        • any hardship you and your household may experience if a possession order is made 
        • any intervention orders or related experiences of family violence 
        • whether you would be facing homelessness if evicted from this property 
        • whether there's a different order VCAT can make, or another course of action instead of ending the lease 
        • anything else that VCAT thinks is relevant. 

        There are dedicated family violence support workers at VCAT who can help to keep you safe during a VCAT hearing.

        They can help to: 

        • arrange for you to attend the hearing by phone, or from another safe place 
        • fill out paperwork or prepare for a hearing 
        • support you at a hearing. 

        Read more about VCAT family violence support

        VCAT may share evidence with all the parties in a matter. If you are worried that sharing evidence of family violence may put your safety at risk, you can ask VCAT for a hearing to decide how the evidence is used and who it is shared with.

        This will usually happen before the main hearing and is called a directions hearing. You should get the support of VCAT’s family violence workers if you are worried about your safety. 

        What outcomes can happen at a VCAT hearing?
        Depending on what your hearing is for, VCAT can decide one of the following outcomes: 

        • to make a possession order, if they consider it reasonable and proportionate to evict you based on the evidence present 
        • to adjourn the hearing to another date 
        • to order a payment plan (if your hearing was for being behind in rent) 
        • to dismiss the application if it doesn't meet certain requirements or if the evidence means that an order should not be made. If this happens, the eviction process ends and you can stay in your home. 

        It is important that you go to your hearing because VCAT can make a decision even if you are not there.

        If you have good reason for not being able to go to your hearing, you can ask for an adjournment (a change to the date of the hearing). Read more about the rules and timeframes when asking VCAT for an adjournment.

        If you miss the hearing and had a reasonable excuse for not attending, you may be able to apply for a review hearing.

        If your VCAT hearing was for being behind in rent, our free self-help tool, Dear Landlord, can help you to generate a tailored VCAT review hearing application.  

        A possession order is serious because it allows the rental provider to evict you from the property. If you do not move out of the property after a possession order is made, a rental provider can get a warrant of possession from VCAT. A warrant of possession allows the police to remove you from the property.

        If VCAT has made a possession order, your options depend on whether you or someone else attended the hearing on your behalf: 

        • if you did not attend the hearing and no one attended on your behalf, you may be able to apply for a review hearing. If you are successful, this will stop the eviction. 
        • if you attended the hearing or someone attended on your behalf, you may be able to appeal if VCAT did not apply the law correctly to your case. You can read more about appealing a VCAT order to the Supreme Court. You can apply for assistance to do this through Justice Connect’s self representation service. 

        Speak to a lawyer to understand what a VCAT possession order means for you, or if you believe the decision was wrong. 

        A warrant of possession allows the police to remove you from the property and change the locks. Police will often tell you when they will be changing the locks so you have some time to prepare. Once the locks have been changed, your rental is over.  

        Challenging a notice to vacate based on family violence   

        If you have experienced family violence, and you have been given notice to vacate that is connected to your experience of family violence, you can ask for VCAT declare the notice to vacate invalid. This is called challenging a notice to vacate.  If VCAT orders that the notice to vacate is invalid, it means that you can stay in the property and you are no longer being evicted.

        For example, if a perpetrator of family violence damaged your front door and you received a notice to vacate for damage, you could argue that the notice to vacate should be dismissed because of its connection to family violence.

        What types of notices to vacate can be challenged based on family violence? 
        VCAT may dismiss a notice to vacate based on family violence, if you were given the notice to vacate for one of the following reasons: 

        • Serious damage to the home 
        • Danger to the safety of neighbours, the residential rental provider, the agent or a contractor of the residential rental provider 
        • Threats and intimidation to the rental provider or real estate agent or their contractor 
        • Failure to comply with a VCAT order 
        • Successive breaches of a duty (e.g. the duty of the renter not to cause nuisance which can include loud noise) 
        • Using the property for an illegal purpose 
        • Drug related conduct in public housing 

        To challenge the notice to vacate on the basis of family violence, you must lodge an application with VCAT within 30 days of receiving the notice to vacate.

        If you are outside the 30 day timeframe, you may still be able to challenge the notice to vacate at a possession order hearing. You may need to apply for an extension of time. If you are in this position, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.

        What can VCAT do when I've challenged a notice to vacate?
        If VCAT is satisfied that you have experienced family violence and that family violence is the reason the notice to vacate was given to you, then VCAT must make an order that the notice to vacate is invalid.

        If VCAT orders that a notice to vacate is invalid, it means that you can stay in the property and you are no longer being evicted. 

        You can get free legal help to understand any orders made at your hearing. A lawyer might also be able to represent you at the hearing.

        A family violence service worker may be able to help provide evidence of family violence at the VCAT hearing. 

        The VCAT family violence support worker can help with arrangements to keep you safe at the hearing.

        See our list of services, for free legal, family violence and housing support. 

        This page contains legal information only. View our disclaimer

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