Our achievements

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Our achievements are presented under each of our outcomes, including data on our outputs and case studies highlighting our work.

A key to achieving a fair and competitive marketplace is ensuring businesses comply with consumer laws. We continue to support businesses to be compliant by giving them information and resources and act quickly against businesses and organisations that are causing the most harm, to protect consumers before there is significant detriment.

Over the past year CAV continued to prioritise licensing, registration and compliance activities with a focus on rooming house safety and digital improvements to our systems. We prioritised rooming house safety checks to ensure compliance with the prescribed minimum safety standards, including secure doors and windows and up-to-date gas and electrical safety checks.

Licensing and registration transactions were made quicker and easier for businesses, professionals, and organisations. This was achieved by implementing several digital improvements to the BLA and CAV’s online licensing and registrations systems. Improvements included Automatic Mutual Recognition notifications, easier trust accounting notifications, and enabling rooming house operators to upload gas and electrical safety checks online.

Digital improvements to licensing and registration online systems

The Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation issued the BLA and CAV with a new Statement of Expectations in September 2021. Significant changes included the addition of a key element to support economic and social recovery, as well as refreshed targets for the standing elements of timeliness, risk-based strategies and compliance related assistance. A crucial new target was to implement ongoing digital improvements to make licensing and registration interactions quicker and easier for businesses, professionals, and community groups.

In response, CAV implemented several digital improvements to its and the BLA’s online licensing and registrations systems, funded by the Victorian Government’s Regulation Reform Incentive Fund, with more planned for 2022–23. These digital improvements will make licensing and registration transactions quicker and easier for businesses, professionals and organisations.

In 2021–22, these improvements include online Automatic Mutual Recognition notifications, the inclusion of additional content in trust accounting notifications and the introduction of new functionality which enables rooming house operators to upload gas and electrical safety checks online. In 2021–22, 537 safety certificates were lodged. These can be more easily checked as part of CAV’s compliance monitoring activity to ensure residents are safe while saving operators time and giving them handy automated reminders when an updated certificate is due.

Through a joint project with Service Victoria, identification verification technology was integrated into the licensing and registration online portal myCAV. This has delivered a faster application process and reduced processing times for businesses and professionals.

The launch of the professional engineering registration scheme resulted in the extension of myCAV to facilitate registration applications. The single capture of data approach enables the Victorian Building Authority to manage registration endorsement and insurance requirements for building engineers through data sharing mechanisms.

Helping businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic

This year we supported regulated industries to manage the impacts of COVID-19 and their ability to meet compliance obligations, such as annual reporting and payment of licensing or registration fees. We worked with the BLA to provide fee waivers, refunds and deadline extensions for annual statements and trust account audit requirements to businesses and community organisations that sought assistance. The BLA provided 38 waivers and refunds totalling more than $6,700, in addition to 113 sex work licence fee refunds totalling more than $246,000. CAV gave 910 estate agents and conveyancers additional time to lodge their trust account annual audits. Extensions of time were also provided to more than 1,200 incorporated associations and co-operatives to hold annual general meetings and lodge annual statements.

Automatic mutual recognition

Automatic mutual recognition (AMR) enables individuals licensed or registered for an occupation in one Australian state or territory to work in another state or territory using their home state licence.

The AMR scheme commenced for several occupations in Victoria from 1 July 2021 and from 1 January 2022 for estate agents and professional engineers. Workers covered by AMR may be able to do the activities they are licensed for in their home state or in other states and territories without the need to apply and pay fees for a second licence. The scheme makes it easier for licensed or registered workers to operate in multiple states and territories while providing safeguards to maintain standards and protect consumers, workers and others.

We also extended our licensing and registration portal, myCAV, to allow estate agents and professional engineers to notify the BLA of their intention to operate under AMR in Victoria. This seamless process will deliver an increase in available qualified professionals and the faster delivery of services to Victorians, whilst ensuring all necessary public protection requirements, such as complying with Victorian trust account requirements, are met.

Professional engineers registration scheme

CAV led the implementation of the Professional Engineers Registration Act 2019, which for the first time introduced a registration scheme and conduct requirements for professional engineers in Victoria. This was a historic moment for the engineering profession in Victoria, and finally provided recognition of the vital role that engineers play in building our world and protecting our communities. The scheme also supports infrastructure delivery in Victoria and gives Victorians greater confidence by ensuring only suitably qualified and experienced engineers provide professional engineering services.

In a first for Victoria, the scheme is run under a co-regulatory model, where registration is jointly administered by the BLA, CAV, the Victorian Building Authority and the engineering profession. Under a progressive implementation model, professional engineers in five nominated areas – civil, structural, electrical, mechanical and fire safety – will be required to register unless they work under the direct supervision of a registered professional engineer or under a prescriptive standard.

The Act commenced on 1 July 2021 with existing registered building engineers, across all five areas, automatically transferred from the Victorian Building Authority to new registration with the BLA. The first area of engineering to be implemented in full was fire safety engineers, with registration becoming mandatory in December 2021. Implementation will conclude with mandatory registration for mechanical engineers in December 2023, although engineers can apply for registration at any time since the scheme commenced. In 2021–22, 4,571 engineers have been registered across the five areas of engineering.

Sex work decriminalisation

The Sex Work Decriminalisation Act 2022 was passed by the Victorian Parliament on 22 February 2022. Decriminalisation ensures that sex work is safe work. It maximises sex workers’ safety, health, and human rights and improves access to government health and justice services. It also reduces stigma and fear of criminal repercussions. Decriminalisation of sex work recognises that sex work is legitimate work and should be regulated through standard business laws, like all other industries in the state.

Stage One commenced on 10 May 2022. In addition to the decriminalisation of streetbased sex work in most locations, under Stage One, the Act repealed industry-specific advertising controls, the requirements for independent sex workers to register or be licensed by the BLA, and public health offences under the Sex Work Act 1994. The Act also included new anti-discrimination protections in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. Stage Two of the reforms will come into force in December 2023 and repeal the Sex Work Act 1994. Upon the repeal of the requirements for independent sex workers (‘exempt small owner-operators’) to register, the BLA and CAV destroyed all records associated with the former small owner-operator register.

New educational requirements for prospective conveyancers and estate agents

New educational requirements for conveyancers were introduced in Victoria on 30 September 2021, following a national review of the existing qualification. The new qualification is the refreshed and updated Advanced Diploma of Conveyancing. The new qualification requires prospective conveyancers to complete nine core units and six electives. The changes to the regulations also changed the work experience requirements to be licensed, to recognise previous work as a licensed conveyancer. A person who has held a conveyancer’s licence within the last five years is now able to rely on that experience to be re-licensed, without having to undertake further supervised work experience.

DJCS sought stakeholder feedback on whether the proposed electives for the new qualification would give students the right skills they need to work as conveyancers. This feedback informed changes to the Conveyancers (Qualification and Experience) Regulations 2018 to implement the new qualification in Victoria.

Conveyancers who were already licensed were not affected by these changes.

Enforcement actions

We took various enforcement actions in 2021–22, with a particular focus on ensuring compliance with essential estate agent obligations.

For more information on actions completed or in progress as at 30 June 2022, see pages 16 – 18 of the Annual Report 2021-22 (PDF, 762KB).

Protecting consumers from underquoting and trust account losses

In 2021–22, CAV focused on compliance with essential estate agent obligations regarding trust accounting and underquoting. We issued 171 infringements and 226 Official Warnings to 200 estate agents regarding breaches in these areas.

Underquoting occurs when a property is advertised at a price below the estimated selling price, the seller’s asking price or a price that has been rejected as too low by the seller. When underquoting occurs, potential buyers can waste significant time and money inspecting and assessing properties that were never in their price range. It may also distort the market and create an artificial purchasing environment while enriching those who break the law.

Throughout the year, CAV monitored compliance with underquoting laws across the industry to protect homebuyers from underquoting. The pandemic contributed to unique conditions in the Victorian property market and raised concerns some agents were engaging in underquoting. We responded by making over 350 visits to estate agencies to ensure their compliance with underquoting laws.

We also continued to facilitate consumer and industry awareness, including website updates and social media posts to help agents understand the laws and to educate Victorians on how they can report suspected underquoting.

Trust accounts are a critical part of the consumer protection framework. They protect consumers who pay money (such as rent, purchase or sale deposits or advertising and maintenance fees) to real estate agents and conveyancers. Under the law, estate agents and conveyancers must deposit any client money they receive in advance into a trust account for safe keeping and face high penalties if they fail to comply.

In 2021–22 we finalised four criminal prosecutions against estate agents for trust account, underquoting and other conduct breaches. We also finalised a matter concerning the director of former western suburbs estate agency The Sarain Pty Ltd, Surinder Sarain, who agreed to an undertaking after admitting to breaches of Victoria’s Estate Agents Act 1980 and Estate Agents (Professional Conduct) Regulations 2008, including failing to disclose relevant information about the commission of two properties, making false and misleading representations whilst advertising properties and underquoting while marketing 11 properties. Additionally, Mr Sarain failed to maintain accurate trust accounting records. The matter was resolved out of court, with an undertaking provided to the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria by Mr Sarain preventing him from working in any management position in the industry and a payment of $2,500 made to the Victorian Consumer Law Fund.

Completing and lodging a trust account annual audit is an essential consumer protection requirement. Estate agent and conveyancer trust account audits can be lodged electronically using our online portal myCAV. We continued our focus on ensuring compliance with these requirements in 2021–22 and will continue to take further enforcement action regarding nonlodgement of audits where required.

Enforcing compliance with domestic building consumer protections

Building or renovating a house is one of the biggest investments many people will make in their lifetime. Victorian consumers seeking to engage in residential building works are provided with a number of legal protections, including domestic builder registration requirements and contractual regulations under the Domestic Building Contracts Act 2005 (the DBC Act).

The DBC Act prohibits building practitioners from demanding an excessive upfront deposit and regulates stage payments and cost escalation. Consumers who are pressured to pay too much
up-front are at risk of the builder not finishing the works on time or at all or not fixing defects. Consumers who unwittingly engage an unregistered building practitioner can also risk financial and workmanship problems; this is as well as not being afforded the same protections they would have had if engaging a registered building practitioner.

Mr Michael Johnson undertook outdoor building works across Melbourne as an unregistered builder, trading under several business names. Following a public warning notice issued about Mr Johnson in January 2021, CAV commenced court action against Mr Johnson in late 2021 for entering into a major domestic building contract without being a registered building practitioner and for receiving deposits greater than the amounts permitted under the DBC Act. We took action against Mr Johnson following complaints from consumers who had made payments for building work, which was then not supplied or completed, or was completed poorly and without the required building permit or registration.

In June 2022, Mr Johnson was convicted of breaches under the DBC Act and ordered to pay an aggregate fine of $7,000. He was also ordered to pay over $43,000 in compensation to affected consumers and to pay costs.

CAV will continue to respond to domestic building conduct that puts consumers at risk and unfairly damages confidence in the industry and registered builders doing the right thing.

Registers we administer

We administer the following registers:

  • Estate agents 
  • Motor car traders
  • Second-hand dealers and pawnbrokers
  • Conveyancers
  • Owners corporation managers
  • Sex work service providers (licensees)
  • Sex work brothel managers
  • Rooming house operators
  • Incorporated associations
  • Co-operatives
  • Patriotic funds
  • Limited partnerships
  • Retirement villages
  • Funeral service providers

For more information see pages 12 of the Annual Report 2021-22 (PDF, 762KB)

We empower Victorians to exercise their consumer rights by providing information, advice and support, including through our website, contact centre, online services and funded partner organisations delivering more intensive assistance to vulnerable Victorians.

In 2021–22, we provided information and advice services to Victorians throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including providing over 245,000 phone services, an increase on the previous financial year. This was driven by the resumption of full services after the disruptions caused by the pandemic over the past two years.

We continued to support vulnerable and disadvantaged Victorians through the delivery of the Financial Counselling Program and tenancy and consumer programs. In 2021–22, $14.62 million supported placebased financial counselling services across Victoria, the National Debt Helpline in Victoria, specialist family violence financial counsellors and dedicated services for bushfire, storm and flood victims.

As we begin the transition of our contact centre to a more modern digital platform, we look forward to greater efficiency and allowing for the integration of phone and online channels, which will mean increased accessibility and service improvements for Victorians. The harmonisation of processes across our contact centres will support improved quality and consistency of services allowing us to better adapt to fluctuating community needs.

CAV’s contact centre: Supporting consumers from restrictions to recovery

We provided vital support to Victorian consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers contacted us for information and advice using a range of channels including telephone, email, written correspondence, our website and social media. Updated contact centre technology was leveraged to support the remote operation of the contact centre. We adjusted our service model to promote online advice, while ensuring telephone support was available for those who need it. While this adjustment impacted the amount of information and advice provided to consumers and businesses over the phone, we were able to meet consumer needs by being responsive and flexible.

Consumers contacted CAV for information about changes in terms and conditions from airlines, travel agencies, short stay rental providers and event organisers. Information and advice related to refunds for cancelled arrangements due to COVID-19 and the availability and cost of Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits was a significant driver of demand.

The resumption of full services drove a significant increase in the number of phone calls, with over 245,000 calls answered. In particular, the resumption of full services to the Fair Trading line saw a return to pre-pandemic levels of demand by Victorian consumers. The contact centre is continuing to invest in its staff, processes and technology to meet this demand and to maintain quality service to the community.

CAV website improvements

The CAV website is a vital resource that helps consumers access information and services and understand their rights. It also supports business to understand their obligations. Ninety per cent of consumer engagement with CAV starts on the CAV website.

Feedback about the website has highlighted issues that are negatively impacting experiences. This feedback is guiding a project to redevelop and improve the website. The project started in December 2021 and will deliver an increasingly human-centric site with content that is easier to find and understand. Better access to content online also frees-up other resources to serve more vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers and address the most complex problems Victorians face.

Work has started on sections of the site to address navigation and content concerns. A staggered delivery of enhancements means users will see the benefits of each update as it is finished.

Funded Community Services

CAV continued to fund a range of community services throughout the year to support vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers, including through the Financial Counselling Program, the Consumer Assistance and Advocacy Program and the Domestic Building Legal Service.

The Financial Counselling Program supported more than 17,785 Victorians with free and independent financial counselling services delivered by community agencies across Victoria in
2021–22. This is an increase on the number of Victorians supported in 2020–21 due to the relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions on face-to-face service delivery and withdrawal of related financial supports.

Financial counsellors provide consumers with advice about their rights and responsibilities, support in negotiating with creditors and advice on how to make payment plans for debts. Clients supported by the Financial Counselling Program typically report incomes of less than $30,000 per year and are experiencing vulnerability due to personal circumstances. The support provided by the Financial Counselling Program helps to ensure that they are able to meet their obligations and are not subject to unfair or unreasonable debts. As part of this program, specialist financial counselling services were provided to more than 3,400 Victorians experiencing family violence. Victorians impacted by natural disasters were supported through dedicated bushfire, storm and flood programs.

CAV also continued to fund the Consumer Assistance and Advocacy Program (CAAP), providing advice, casework and campaign and advocacy services to Victorian consumers. The CAAP casework service focuses on support to groups experiencing vulnerability including culturally and linguistically diverse community members, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and older Victorians. Throughout the year, 349 vulnerable Victorians received support with clients impacted by scams, breaches of consumer guarantees and contractual disputes.

The Domestic Building Legal Service provided support to vulnerable homeowners experiencing disputes with their builder. The service provided support to 217 homeowners who had not been able to successfully resolve the dispute through Domestic Building Dispute Resolution Victoria. More intensive support from pro-bono lawyers was also provided to 15 homeowners with complex cases. Clients are supported to resolve disputes across a range of areas including with payments and with legal support where the works are defective and incomplete and they do not have the means themselves to engage legal support.

Integration of family violence response training across a range of CAV services

We continued to look for ways to improve our service delivery, with a focus on improving responses to people experiencing family violence, improving outcomes and supporting victims/survivors to recover and thrive.

Senior leaders across CAV were supported to improve their understanding of how service delivery and policy development can be informed by contemporary approaches to family violence. Our contact centre team underwent training on how to identify family violence in their contacts, aligned with the Multi Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework. Processes have also been established to ensure Victorians who are experiencing family violence have access to all of CAV’s services and are referred to an appropriate family violence service.

Our senior leaders also undertook family violence training to ensure they have the knowledge and tools to support staff who are experiencing or using family violence.

Launch of Property Market Review

Changing market conditions, such as concerns about housing affordability, have increased community concerns about underquoting and access to the property market. As a result, in February 2022, a review into Victoria’s property market was commissioned to ensure that consumer property laws provide Victorians with easier and fairer access to the housing market.

The review was conducted by an independent expert panel, comprised of Carolyn Bond AM, consumer advocate and former co-Chief Executive Officer of the Consumer Action Law Centre and Enzo Raimondo, industry expert and former Chief Executive Officer of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria. The expert panel undertook public consultation via the Engage Victoria platform. In addition, the expert panel conducted stakeholder consultations via interviews and workshops, targeting stakeholders from the property industry, housing providers, community organisations, government departments and agencies with a role in the property market. Victorians were invited to participate in the review through a survey, submissions, and public forums. Consultation was open from 18 February 2022 to 1 April 2022.

The review’s terms of reference cover issues relating to consumer property laws, tasking the expert panel with making recommendations on the terms. The expert panel provided its report to the government in late April 2022 for further consideration.


As the Victorian regulator of rental laws, we work to achieve fair and safe rental housing. In 2021–22 CAV maintained a focus on the implementation of the new rental laws that came into effect in March 2021 for renters and rental providers (landlords) in Victoria. The laws focused on increasing protections for renters while ensuring rental providers can effectively manage their properties.

We maintained a particular focus on ensuring compliance with essential estate agent obligations whilst continuing to inform renters and rental providers of their rights and responsibilities through our frontline contact centre, website and social media channels. The pandemic resulted in unusual conditions in the Victorian property market; we recognise this, and know it’s important for agents, renters and rental providers to be aware of Victoria’s rental laws.

Supporting the implementation of the new rental laws

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 introduced more than 130 reforms to Victoria’s rental laws from 29 March 2021, creating a safer and fairer rental market for Victorian renters and rental providers. The wide scope of these reforms meant significant support was required from CAV to help renters and rental providers understand and comply with these new laws.

The contact centre’s Residential Tenancies phone and online service provided a significant amount of support to renters and rental providers. This included questions from renters about the reforms and their practical impacts, and questions from rental providers about their new obligations. Over 70,000 residential tenancy calls and over 3,700 online residential tenancy enquiries were received over the course of the financial year.

The contact centre also provided support to renters and rental providers lodging complaints or seeking frontline conciliation services. Over 1,450 frontline residential tenancy conciliation cases and over 2,200 residential tenancy complaints were resolved by the contact centre in 2021–22.

The Owners Corporations and Other Acts Amendment Act 2021

The Owners Corporations and Other Acts Amendment Act 2021 was passed by Parliament in February 2021 and commenced on 1 December 2021. The Act contained a package of 36 reforms, the most significant reforms since the commencement of the Owners Corporations Act in December 2007.

The reforms introduce a range of changes, including different levels of requirements depending on the size of the owners corporation, changes to responsibilities for managers and developers, and other reforms designed to ensure owners corporations are better governed and more liveable for residents. CAV is committed to working with industry to deliver a voluntary, ongoing information and training program for owners corporation managers. We are currently liaising with key stakeholders to identify activities that would support enhanced information.

Rooming house inspections and safety checks

CAV is committed to the effective regulation of rooming houses and recognise that these premises are often the last resort for some of the most vulnerable Victorians.

We prioritised rooming house safety through the continued delivery of CAV’s State Inspection Program, conducting over 220 rooming house inspections including over 300 gas and electrical safety checks, to ensure compliance with the prescribed minimum safety standards.

CAV undertakes risk-based targeting of rooming houses, focusing on breaches causing the most serious consumer detriment. CAV’s regulatory response to any identified non-compliance is informed by its published Regulatory Approach and Compliance Policy.

This year, we also initiated the electronic lodgement of gas and safety electrical certificates using our online myCAV licensing and registrations portal. Certificates are mandatory under the Regulations and are a key minimum safety standard. These can now be more easily checked as part of CAV’s compliance monitoring activity to ensure residents are safe, while saving operators time and giving them handy automated reminders when an updated certificate is due.

Tenancy programs

Funded Tenancy Programs supports community organisations to deliver a range of programs including the Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program (TAAP), the Tenancy Central Service and the Retirement Housing Assistance and Advocacy Program. These programs provided integrated support to vulnerable and disadvantaged Victorians in private rentals or retirement housing throughout 2021–22.

The TAAP continued to play an important role in supporting vulnerable renters, including those who had been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, through loss of employment or removal of the COVID-19 supports. Funded agencies reported that as a result of the pressures in the housing market and withdrawal of COVID-19 supports, more renters are experiencing higher rents and rent arrears, pushing many into financial difficulty. TAAP agencies support clients with a range of concerns including urgent repairs, those at risk of eviction or who are facing rent increases. They do this through negotiating with agents and rental providers, providing information on client rights and supporting clients in proceedings at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. In 2021–22, the TAAP supported 7,339 Victorians.

The Retirement Housing Assistance and Advocacy Program provided support to 340 Victorians over the age of 55 to maintain their tenancy and exercise their rights in retirement housing across the year. Clients were supported to address urgent repairs, including subsidence issues, and to enforce minimum standards.

Retirement villages: Review

DJCS recently completed a review of the Retirement Villages Act, in which Victorians were provided with the opportunity to suggest improvements to modernise the Act and to balance effective consumer protections with continued growth and innovation in the sector.

A summary of submissions received in response to a public Options Paper was released on the Engage Victoria website in March 2022. The summary highlighted key themes, including the need for change to clarify rights and responsibilities of residents and operators, to reduce contract complexity, and improve internal and external dispute resolution.

Victorian Property Fund

The Estate Agents Act 1980 allows the responsible Minister to make grants from the Victorian Property Fund (VPF) for certain purposes. The Minister makes her decision on grants after consultation with CAV, the Estate Agents Council and any industry associations, government departments and other organisations, as appropriate.

CAV administers the VPF grants program. This includes evaluating applications, making recommendations about proposals to the Minister, and administering the grants.

In 2021–22, more than $4 million was spent on existing grants to community organisations to deliver estate agent professional development training, social housing development and environmental housing development projects. The table below details this year’s grant expenditure by purpose and recipients. No new grants were awarded from the VPF in 2021–22.