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Home of Your Own

A self help tool for renters affected by family violence

Dealing with damage or unpaid rent when you want to stay

Options to avoid the financial burden of damage or unpaid rent because of family violence, when you want to stay in your home.

Who is responsible for paying the rent?
Generally, everyone on the rental agreement is equally responsible for paying the rent, even if they are no longer living in the property.

What happens if I can’t pay the rent?
If you are 14 days or more behind in rent, your rental provider can start the eviction process. This means they can give you a notice to vacate.

A notice to vacate is the first step in the eviction process and does not mean you have to move out. You can read more about the eviction process here. If you receive a notice to vacate, you should seek legal help.

If you cannot pay rent because of family violence, there are options to avoid rental debt.

If you fall behind in rent, you can offer a payment plan to your rental provider to catch up on your rent. You can use Dear Landlord to draft a payment plan that you can send to your rental provider.

Use Dear Landlord to draft a payment plan.

There is damage to my home – what do I need to do?
If a person using violence damaged your home, you must notify the rental provider or real estate agent.

If the damage was caused by family violence, you might be protected under the law from the costs of repairing the damage. As a priority, you should get legal help to understand your options and obligations where a person using violence has caused damage to your home.

The rental provider may send you a repair notice that requires you to repair the damage within 14 days. If you cannot repair the damage, the rental provider can instead repair the damage themselves and ask you to reimburse them for the cost of the repairs within 14 days. If you are not able to reimburse the rental provider in this short timeframe, you can let them know that you need an additional 14 days due to experiencing hardship.

Can I be taken to VCAT for the costs to repair the damage?
If you cannot complete the repairs or reimburse the rental provider, your rental provider may apply to VCAT for a compliance or compensation order.

If the damage was caused by family violence, you might be protected from paying costs to repair the damage. Speak to a lawyer if you are in this situation.

Can I apply to VCAT to decide who is responsible for the cost of the damage or unpaid rent?
If the person using violence against you is on the rental agreement, you can apply to VCAT to make changes to the agreement. For example, you can apply to end the lease agreement you share and have a new agreement created in just your name. 

As part of this, you can also ask VCAT to decide who is responsible for any unpaid rent or damage. VCAT can also make orders about the bond, including that the person using violence should have their bond put toward unpaid rent or damage. VCAT can also make orders protecting your share of the bond. 

Read more about changing a lease and VCAT orders.

Can I get evicted for damage that was caused by family violence?
If the damage is serious, the rental provider can give you a notice to vacate asking you to leave the property.

If you have experienced family violence, and you have been given notice to vacate for serious damage that is connected to 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 person using violence damaged your front door and you received a notice to vacate for serious damage, you could argue that the notice to vacate should be dismissed because of its connection to family violence. 

To challenge a notice to vacate because of family violence, you must do this within 30 days of receiving it. Otherwise, you will need to request that VCAT waive this requirement, and there is no guarantee that VCAT will do so. If you are in this position, you should get legal help as soon as possible.

Read more about notices to vacate if you have received one.

Can I lose my bond because of damage or unpaid rent caused by family violence?
After a tenancy ends, either the renter or the rental provider can apply to VCAT for the bond to be returned to them.

If you are on the rental agreement but the person using violence is not, VCAT can make orders to protect your portion of a bond and to determine how much you (and any co-renters) owe the rental provider if: 

  • You have experienced family violence, 
  • The loss or damage suffered by the rental provider was caused by a person using violence against you, and 
  • You have a current intervention order or family violence safety notice. 

If you and the person using violence against you are both the rental agreement, and you have experienced family violence, you can ask VCAT to protect your bond. In this situation, VCAT can make orders that: 

  • The renter who used family violence is responsible for more, or all, of the loss or damage suffered by the rental provider, and 
  • The portion of the bond paid by you (the renter who experienced family violence) is protected from any claim by the rental provider.  

You don't need to have an intervention order or family violence safety notice to access these protections if both you and the person using violence are on the rental agreement. 

You can get free legal help to understand what protections you might have to avoid rental debts or what options you have to challenge NTVs connected to family violence.

A family violence service may be able to help you access funding to pay for repairs to your home, or provide evidence of family violence. 

A housing service may be able to assist you with accessing support to pay some rent if you are struggling.

A VCAT family violence worker can help you stay safe if you have to attend a VCAT 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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