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If you are experiencing rental hardship due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for assistance.

The Victorian Government has recently announced rent relief grants for Victorians experiencing rental hardship as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. 

The package provides a one off grant to help Victorian renters maintain safe, secure and stable accommodation.

Questions and Answers

What is the rent-relief grant?

The Victorian Government has established an $80 million rental assistance fund to provide rent relief payments of up to $2000 to Victorians experiencing rental hardship due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
 
The one off grant is specifically for tenants living in their primary residence to help them maintain safe, secure and stable accommodation. It is paid directly to the tenant’s agent, lessor or landlord to contribute to the tenant’s rental payments, under their new rental agreement.

What should I do if I can’t afford my rent?

If you are unable to pay your rent due to financial hardship, in the first instance you should contact your landlord or property manager as soon as possible to negotiate an alternative arrangement such as rent reduction.

When you reach an agreement, make sure it’s in writing and lodge the agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria

You may then be eligible for a Rent Relief Grant.
 

How will the grant be administered?

The grant will be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services Victoria to eligible tenants who:

  1. have negotiated a rental reduction with their landlord or real estate agent – and lodged that agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria; or
  2. have undertaken a dispute resolution or mediation process with Consumer Affairs Victoria.
Who is eligible for the grant?

The grant will assist renters in Victoria experiencing financial hardship due to coronavirus (COVID-19), who have, or will shortly have, a bond registered with the Victorian Residential Tenancies Bond Authority.

To be eligible for the grant you will need to have registered a revised rental agreement inclusive of a rental reduction or gone through mediation.  Deferral of rent is not considered a rent reduction and therefore does not meet the eligibility criteria.  Your household income must be less than $1,903 per week, and you have less than $5,000 in savings and still be paying at least 30 per cent of your income in rent. 

There are no citizenship or permanent residency requirements for applicants. Applicants that may be eligible include casual workers on holiday and working visas, skilled visas, seasonal workers, New Zealand citizens and all refugee and temporary protection visa holders.

To register your agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria, visit Coronavirus (COVID-19) and your rights page.

What does ‘rental hardship’ mean?

Rental hardship is a situation where a tenant is paying more than 30 per cent of their income in rent and may have limited personal savings and access to other benefits or support. 

Am I eligible if I live in a multi-occupancy house with a shared lease?

Yes. If you are one of the lease holders in your home and meet the eligibility criteria you may qualify for a grant that represents your portion of the rent.

If you are experiencing financial difficulty paying your rent due to a loss or reduction of income due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, in the first instance you and the other tenants on the lease should contact your agent, lessor or landlord to negotiate an alternative arrangement such as rent reduction.
 

Should I stop paying my rent?

No. To avoid breaching your tenancy agreement it is important you continue to pay your rent.

If you are experiencing rental hardship, in the first instance you should contact your agent, lessor or landlord to negotiate an alternative arrangement such as rent reduction.

If you are unable to secure a rent reduction, you should engage in a dispute resolution process with your landlord and Consumer Affairs Victoria’s dispute resolution service. Consumer Affairs Victoria will act as a referee to ensure a fair agreement can be reached between all parties.

Eligible tenants can access rent relief if they lodge their new rental agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria
 

What do I need to know before speaking with my agent or landlord about a rent reduction?

Consumer Affairs Victoria has a range of advice on how to resolve rent issues. For more information, visit Coronavirus (COVID-19) and your rights page.

What if I can’t reach an agreement with my agent or landlord?

If an agreement cannot be reached, contact Consumer Affairs Victoria for assistance.   

I’m a landlord, does this mean I don’t need to agree to a rent reduction with my tenant?

No, landlords should still negotiate in good faith with their tenants.
To be eligible for rent relief tenants must have either:

  1. negotiated a rental reduction with their real estate agent or landlord; or
  2. have undertaken a dispute resolution or mediation process with Consumer Affairs Victoria

Rental relief grants paid on behalf of tenants will be based on reduced rent arrangements negotiated between the tenant and landlord and will be used as a credit for rental payments at this reduced amount. The grant should be treated as a deposit amount to the rental balance and has the same effect as if the tenant had made a rental payment. The grant should not be used as a top-up for the landlord to make up the difference between the previous rent and the reduced rent agreed as part of a rent deduction.

How do I apply for a grant?

If you are eligible, you can apply for a grant at any time, however your application can only be processed if you have reached a voluntary agreement for a rent reduction with your landlord and lodged this agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria, or completed a mediation process through Consumer Affairs Victoria.

In order to apply for the grant, you must provide a current bank statement for every tenant on the lease, in addition to evidence of reduced income for every applicant affected.

If you have lodged your new rental agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria, you can apply for a Rent Relief Grant online.

What happens after I complete my application?

If you need to provide additional information, you will receive an email with the detail required to complete the assessment of your application. You will have 14 business days from that email to provide this. If we don’t receive it within this timeframe, your application may be assessed as ineligible.

How soon will relief payments be available?

Once your application has been approved, your rental relief payment will typically be processed within two weeks. The payment is made directly to your agent, lessor or landlord. The Department of Health and Human Services will inform you once the payment is made.

What can the grant be used for?

The rent relief grant is specifically for the purpose of supporting eligible people experiencing rental hardship. 

The payment will be made directly by the Department of Health and Human Services to your landlord as a credit towards your newly negotiated rental payments charged on your account. The grant should be treated as a deposit amount to the rental balance and has the same effect as if the tenant had made a rental payment. The grant should not be used as a top-up for the landlord to make up the difference between the previous rent and the reduced rent agreed as part of a rent reduction. 

The grant cannot be paid directly to the tenant or used for non-rental expenses, such as utilities or household items.

How is the amount of the grant calculated?

We will calculate the amount of grant to a maximum $2,000 when we assess an application. The amount of grant is dependent on the applicant's income, and the level of reduced rent they are paying. 
Where the difference between an applicant paying more than 30% of their income is $77 per week or more, the applicant will receive the full $2,000 grant.

Where the difference between an applicant paying more than 30% of their income is less than $77 per week, the grant will be calculated as 26 weeks multiplied by the amount the applicant is paying more than 30% of their income.

How are single and couple applicants assessed for the grant?

If an applicant is single, then their application will be assessed against each of the eligibility criteria.
If the applicant is a member of a couple, then their application will be assessed against each of the eligibility criteria as follows:

  • Only one person needs to demonstrate their income or working hours have been affected by a COVID-19 event
  • Only one person needs to have an agreement registered with Consumer Affairs Victoria to reduce rent
  • Only one person in the couple needs to be listed on a bond or other accommodation agreement
  • The couple is jointly assessed on income, assets and rental stress
  • If all of the criteria are satisfied, the couple is eligible for one rental grant.
     
Will I have to pay the grant back?

You will not have to pay the grant back.

What if I am in urgent need of somewhere to stay?

If you or someone you know is in immediate need of crisis or emergency accommodation, please contact the statewide after-hours service on 1800 825 955 (free call) Monday to Friday and 24 hours on weekends and public holidays. This number will direct your call to a service closest to you, or if the call is outside business hours, it will be directed to Salvation Army Crisis Services.

If the housing issue relates to family violence, please phone the Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre on 1800 015 188 (free call) or (03) 9322 3555 open 24 hours.

What if I’m not eligible but I’m at risk of losing my tenancy for other reasons?

Other rental support programs are available for people either at risk of or experiencing homelessness. These include:   

  • RentAssist Bond Loan – If you want to rent privately and need assistance with the bond, you may be able to borrow the money for an interest free loan
  • Commonwealth Rental Assistance - a payment to assist with rental costs for eligible people getting a Centrelink payment
  • Financial help for private renters - information about concessions, hardship support, loans, financial advice and counselling
  • In home support – programs and services that may help people stay in their rented home 
  • Rental advice – organisations that provide specialist advice on renting, tenancy issues and relationship and general dispute resolution 

You can find out more about these services at help with renting page.

If you are homeless or at risk of homelessness, you may also be eligible for assistance under the Private Rental Assistance Program (PRAP). 

The program aims to secure and sustain housing in the private rental market through financial assistance for rent in advance, rental arrears and rental subsidies, minor property modifications, and skills training including financial management and budgeting.

To find out more information contact 1800 825 955 (free call) Monday to Friday and 24 hours on weekends and public holidays.
 

Where can I find more information?

To be eligible for the grant you will need to have registered your revised rental agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria or gone through mediation, have had your income affected by coronavirus (COVID-19), have less than $5,000 in savings and still be paying at least 30 per cent of your income in rent. Lodge your inquiry with Consumer Affairs Victoria.

If you have lodged your new rental agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria, you can apply for a Rent Relief Grant online.

If you need to contact the department about your grant application please email ImplementationSupport@dhhs.vic.gov.au or telephone 1800 950 444 between 9am and 12pm Monday to Friday.

For residential tenancy matters, contact Consumer Affairs Victoria or Tenants Victoria.

For the latest information and health advice about COVID-19, visit Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) page on the DHHS website.