No place for evictions in a national health crisis

Media release
Tuesday 17 March 2020

 

Victoria’s specialist tenancy legal service, Tenants Victoria, has contacted the Victorian Consumer Affairs Minister and Attorney General seeking special measures in rental housing to support social isolation and public safety. This would mean a temporary suspension on evictions during the COVID-19 national health crisis.

Tenants Victoria CEO, Jennifer Beveridge, said she hoped that Minister Marlene Kairouz and Attorney General Jill Hennessy would take urgent action to keep people safe during the crisis.

‘You can’t maintain social distance and follow the Government’s health advice if you don’t have a home. Victorian renters are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 if they lose their home or need to find a new one in the midst of the crisis. With 1-in-3 Victorians renting their home, this could be a major issue for community-wide containment.’

‘We have been contacted by people being evicted right now by landords, real estate agents and through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) continuing to make possession orders. This not only puts these individuals and families at risk, but it puts us all at risk as well.’

‘VCAT should immediately cease issuing possession orders for rent arrears during this emergency to help keep the community safe. Real estate agents and landlords should delay the use of notices to vacate until this public health emergency is resolved.’

Tenants Victoria, together with other community legal centres and tenancy advice providers is seeing an increase in people whose homes are at risk because they can’t work in their casual jobs or they have run out of leave.

This includes a wide range of workers, including casual transport workers like Uber drivers through to arts workers (ushers, catering employees, actors and musicians who have been badly impacted by the cancellation of events and public gatherings) or part-time workers in a wide range of industries.

“These renters are facing both housing and health crisis due to factors outside their control. Emergencies like this call for special measures and we need the Victorian Government to take decisive action to protect the community. Temporarily suspending evictions will help the community remain secure by limiting exposure during this emergency.”

‘Minister Marlene Kairouz and Attorney General Jill Hennessy should order VCAT to cease issuing possession orders during the emergency and begin an urgent dialogue with the real estate industry about how we can all act for the benefit of the community.

‘Having a home is essential to staying safe right now. These measures will save lives.’