Late or unpaid rent (rent arrears)

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If a renter is late paying their rent because they haven’t paid by the due date, or has not paid at all, they are ‘in arrears’.

There are rules about when and how a rental provider (landlord) can take action to recover unpaid rent.

On this page:

Other pages have information about paying rent and rent increases.

Informing a rental provider (landlord) of late rent

As a renter, you are responsible for paying your rent on time and as agreed in the rental agreement. If you know your rent is going to be late, try to speak to your rental provider as soon as possible and try to negotiate a new time to pay.

Rental providers don’t have to be flexible about payment amounts or dates. They can take formal action against a renter who is late paying rent.

However, it is illegal for a rental provider or agent to charge any sort of ‘administration fee’ or ‘late fee’ to process rent payments even if the rent is late.

Rental provider’s (landlord’s) rights if rent is late

Where possible, rental providers should contact renters to discuss late payment and try to reach an agreement. If they can’t agree, rental providers can take formal action. 

Rental provider can issue a notice to vacate

If renters are more than 14 days late on rent (7 days for rooming house or caravan park tenants), the rental provider can give them a notice to vacate.

A notice to vacate is a formal statement that the rental provider wants to end the rental agreement and that the renter should leave the property.

A notice to vacate must be given by hand, post or electronic communication (such as email). Electronic communication can only be used if the renter or resident has consented to receiving notices and other documents this way.

A renter or resident can challenge a notice to vacate by applying to VCAT.

A rental provider, rooming house operator or park owner or operator cannot personally evict a renter, physically or otherwise.

Read more about giving notice to vacate.

Rental provider can apply for a possession order (eviction notice)

If a renter doesn’t pay the late rent after they’ve been given a notice to vacate by the due date, the rental provider can apply to VCAT for a possession order. Also called an 'eviction notice', this is an order for the renter to leave so the rental provider can take back possession of the property. It can be enforced by police.

VCAT can decide to:

  • issue the possession order
  • allow the renter (in special circumstances) to pay via a payment plan.

Payment plan agreements for rent arrears

If the rental provider has applied to VCAT for a possession order because of rent owing, the parties can agree on a payment plan. VCAT have a process to lodge a payment plan agreement prior to a hearing.

If the renter pays as agreed in the payment plan, the possession order will be dismissed, and the rental agreement will continue. If the renter does not pay, the hearing can be fast-tracked and VCAT can issue the possession order.

Read more about evictions and possession orders.

Limits on how often a renter can pay late

When a renter is given a notice to vacate because they have not paid rent, they can pay the rent owing by the vacate date stated on the notice to avoid eviction. Even if the matter goes to VCAT, if the amount is paid by the vacate date, the notice no longer applies.

However, if more than four notices to vacate are issued to a renter in a 12-month period, the renter has ‘4 strikes’ against them. The ‘strikes’ are cleared at the end of the 12 months if there are no more notices during that time.

If a fifth notice to vacate is given to the renter because they have not paid rent, the rental provider can apply to VCAT for a possession order (also called an eviction notice). In this case, VCAT can’t dismiss the application solely because the renter could pay off the unpaid rent under a payment plan.

These rules do not apply to site tenants.

Special rules for late or unpaid rent for site agreements in a residential park or village

There are special rules for Part 4A site agreements. These agreements are for people who live in residential parks or villages and own their own moveable dwelling but rent the land it is on. The site agreement covers the land. Moveable dwellings are also known as a manufactured, prefab or relocatable home. A movable dwelling is designed so that it can be transported from one place to another.

If a site tenant is not paying rent, they can be issued with a breach of duty notice, giving them 14 days to pay the rent owed.

If the rent is not paid in the required time, the site tenant can be issued with a second breach of duty notice, giving them another 14 days to pay.

If the rent owed is still not paid on time, the site owner can serve the site tenant with a notice to vacate within 14 days.

Unpaid rent when the renter has died

When a sole renter dies, their next of kin or legal representative can deal with the rental provider to end the rental agreement. Rent doesn’t need to be paid after the property has been vacated even if it is before the end of the agreement.

If a renter is the only person named on the rental agreement, they are a sole renter. When a co-renter dies, the other renters are responsible for the rent.

Read more about what happens when a renter dies.

Forms you might need

To ask a renter, resident or site tenant to leave because of late or unpaid rent, use one of these forms:

Sections of the Act

If you want to know what the law says about rent in arrears, you can read these sections of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997:

  • Section 91ZM – Non-payment of rent (residential rental agreement)
  • Section 142ZF – Non-payment of rent (rooming house)
  • Section 206AU – Non-payment of rent (caravan park site)
  • Section 206AV – Non-payment of hiring charges (caravan)
  • Section 208 – Breach of duty notice