The Good News: According to the 2016 Census, there are more than 1.5 million renters occupying around 607,000 dwellings in the state of Victoria.
The average tenant in Victoria is about 33 years old and makes about $56,000 a year.
That means landlords in Victoria have a substantial pool of able tenants to tap into when they need to fill a vacant rental property.
The Bad News: The Victorian government passed the Residential Tenancies Act( 2018), approving more than 130 changes to the 1997 Act.
Pundits posit that the changes, set to be effected in 2020, offer the strongest tenant protections in the country (which should be great news).
However, while these amendments are meant to shield renters from exploitative landlords, they’re a gold mine for problem tenants.
Unscrupulous tenants often exploit legal loopholes to extort free accommodation from unsuspecting landlords.
Evicting such tenants from your property can set you up for the biggest fight yet as a landlord when managing a rental property.
It’s almost impossible to win such a fight if you don’t know how to evict a tenant legally in the state of Victoria.
The Eviction Process in Victoria
The Residential Tenancies Act (1997) sets the ground rules for evicting a tenant from your premises.
It outlines the procedure down to the timelines and carrying out the eviction.
However, the entire system can be drilled down to a four-step process:
- Issuing a valid notice to vacate.
- Applying to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a Possession Order.
- Purchasing a warrant of possession from the tribunal.
- Executing the warrant of possession for execution.
Step 1: Issuing a Notice to Vacate
Before ending a tenancy agreement, for whatever reason, you must issue the tenant with a Notice to Vacate. The law requires that you serve the tenant a written notice and adhere to the relevant notice period.
The notice period depends on whether you’re breaking the lease or waiting until the end to issue a notice to vacate (see a list of the notice periods at the end of the article).
Typically, evictions fall into two broad categories:
- No reason eviction; and
- Tenancy breach eviction.
A no reason eviction: It’s simply refusing to renew a tenant’s lease once it expires. As such, the last day of the eviction notice can’t be before the expiry of the lease agreement.
A tenancy breach eviction: It’s progressive and starts with a tenant breaching their duty or tenancy agreement.
On identifying a breach, you must issue the tenant a Breach of Duty Notice requiring that they fix the violation or compensate for the damages within a specific time frame.
If the tenant fails to comply, you need to issue them with the second breach notice.
At the same time, you may apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) seeking compensation or a compliance order.
If the tenant doesn’t comply with the tribunal’s order, you can then issue them a notice to vacate.
Alternatively, you can serve the tenant a notice to vacate if they don’t fix the breach after serving them with three notices to remedy the breach.
If the notice expires before the tenant vacates the premises, you can then apply to VCAT for a Possession Order.
Step 2: Applying for a Possession Order From VCAT
You have two options when applying for a Possession Order from the tribunal – the Standard Method and the Alternative Method.
With the Standard Method, you start out by issuing a tenant with a notice to vacate and only escalate the matter to the council if they fail to vacate the premises.
The Alternative Method is only used under two conditions:
- At the end of a fixed-term tenancy
- When the tenant delays the rent by 14 days
It allows the tribunal to issue a Possession Order without holding a tribunal hearing or giving the tenant a chance to defend themselves.
If the tribunal grants the Possession Order due to rent arrears, you must pass a copy to the tenant, alongside a vacation notice of at least 14 days, and 2 copies of a Notice of Objection.
If the tenant files a Notice of Objection, the tribunal holds a hearing to resolve the stalemate.
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Step 3: Attending a Tribunal Hearing
Regardless of the method used to apply for a Possession Order, the tribunal will only hold a hearing after Notice to Vacate has expired.
The tribunal notifies both you and the tenant with the time, date and venue of the hearing. The hearing is your best chance to be rid of a troublesome tenant.
You must prepare and present your case most compellingly. Evidence such as pictures of the damages caused by the tenant or copies of notices issued can help strengthen your case.
If the situation calls for it, hire an expert witness to testify on your behalf.
If you cannot make it on the hearing date, you can request the tribunal to reschedule for a future date.
Alternatively, you can attend the hearing remotely by video conference or authorise a third party to represent you.
If you do a convincing job, the tribunal will rule in your favour and grant a Possession Order.
However, the results aren’t always guaranteed as the tribunal may take a tenant’s circumstances into account when determining the matter.
A tenant may request the tribunal to postpone the eviction for up to 30 days, citing hardship.
Step 4: Executing a Warrant of Possession
The Warrant of Possession grants the police the power to eject the tenant from the premises. Once you’ve purchased the Warrant of Possession, you must have the police execute it within 14 days.
In some instances, the tribunal may grant a Possession Order that requires the tenant to vacate the property on the same day.
In that case, you must purchase the Warrant of Possession on the same day and give it straight to the police.
If you’re up against a determined tenant, they can put up a spirited fight.
Under the Victorian tenancy protection laws, you can’t forcibly eject a tenant from your premises.
A crafty tenant can abuse all the notice periods and consideration accorded in the tenancy act and the tribunal to extend their stay on the premises.
Unscrupulous tenants aren’t above trashing the property then serving you with a Notice for Breach of Duty to Landlord.
Using this notice, the tenant may pursue compensation for damages from you before the tribunal.
If somehow the tenant convinces the tribunal of your negligence, you’d be faced with expensive repairs and compensation that would leave you out of pocket.
Notice Periods when Breaking the Lease
- If a tenant causes malicious damage to the property.
- Tenants put their neighbours in danger.
14 Days Notice
- Tenant is in rent arrears for 14 days.
- The tenant has ignored a VCAT compliance or termination order.
- The tenant ignores two breach remedy notices and is still in breach.
- The tenant engages in illegal activities.
- The tenant sublets the premises illegally.
- The tenant fails to pay the bond.
Notice Periods at The End of a Lease
60 Days Notice
- Extensive repairs and renovation that require the tenant to move out.
- The premises are to be legally demolished.
- Premises have lawfully been reclassified.
- You (landlord) want to host close relatives on the premises.
- The premise is on sale with vacant possession.
- The premises have been sold and are available under a new lease.
60+ Days Notice
- End of a fixed-term tenancy of fewer than five years – 90 days.
- End of a fixed tenancy of more than five years – 120 days.
- No specific reasons (short term tenancy) – 120 days.
- No specific reasons (long term tenancy) – 180 days.
Avoiding Trouble When Self-managing a Rental Property
Professional tenants have perfected the art of exploiting landlords using the loopholes in the tenancy laws. Evicting them borders on a herculean task. And when you finally do, they will leave without paying the rent arrears.
Luckily, you can avoid the mental anguish and financial strife that comes with dealing with these types of unwanted tenants. Self-management solutions such as Lodge let you screen out troublesome tenants and streamline your entire property management process. Effective tenant screening can save you a considerable amount of money and time.
Reserve your spot now for a personalised demo and see for yourself how easy it can actually be.