Coronavirus (COVID-19) and your rights

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A State of Emergency has been declared in Victoria due to the serious risk to public health posed by coronavirus (COVID-19). This page sets out rights and responsibilities in areas we are receiving increased enquiries about. Due to the regularly changing nature of circumstances in Victoria, we will update this information as often as possible.

Housing

Tenants and landlords must comply with the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (the Act). We also encourage landlords and agents to be compassionate with tenants affected by the pandemic. Property sales and owners corporation meetings also need to adapt.

Some Victorians may suddenly be unable to make their rent payments. They should notify their landlord or agent as early as possible. If they can agree on a payment plan with their landlord for any rent arrears, they should put the agreement in writing.

Although the Act allows for eviction for non-payment of rent, the Victorian Government encourages landlords and agents to work with tenants facing lost income or employment. Alternative arrangements may allow tenants to stay at the property. For example, they may be permitted to repay rental arrears over a reasonable period of time.

If landlords are considering eviction for other reasons, we encourage them to seek agreement with the tenants to avoid ending the tenancy. See our tips on Resolving renting disputes.

If eviction cannot be avoided, landlords must:

  • follow the correct process
  • give the appropriate amount of notice.

For forms, instructions and notice periods, see If the landlord or owner wants the tenant to leave.

For an eviction to be enforced, VCAT must issue a possession order. Some in the rental market have asked Consumer Affairs Victoria to intervene. VCAT is an independent tribunal and Consumer Affairs Victoria and government ministers cannot direct VCAT to stop issuing possession orders.

A tenant who receives a notice to vacate based on rent arrears due to financial hardship should immediately contact their landlord to negotiate a payment plan. If the landlord will not agree, the tenant may choose to stay in the property and wait for a VCAT hearing.

The tenant must attend this hearing and plead a case for a payment plan. Otherwise VCAT may give the landlord a possession order. If VCAT believes satisfactory arrangements have been, or can be, made to avoid financial loss to the landlord, it can dismiss or adjourn an application for a possession order.

Even if the tenant has paid all rent owing before the hearing date, the tenant should still attend. Otherwise all the facts may not be covered and the decision could still result in eviction.

Some tenants on a fixed term tenancy agreement may want to leave the property sooner, due to lost employment or income. In the first instance, they should contact their landlord to negotiate an early end to the agreement. If the landlord does not agree, tenants can apply to VCAT based on severe hardship. This is covered by Section 234 of the Act. VCAT can make related orders, including for repayment of unpaid rent.

Some not-for-profit agencies may help eligible tenants in financial crisis. For initial advice and referral to a financial counsellor, visit the National Debt Helpline website.

The Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program (TAAP) can make a referral where appropriate. It supports tenants who are financially disadvantaged and vulnerable, and have certain specified tenancy issues.

On 18 March 2020, the Victorian Government announced almost $6 million for Victorian homelessness organisations. The funding will help protect Victorians at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

If you need urgent help with housing, contact the Department of Health and Human Services’ housing assistance team. Call 1800 825 955 (free call, 24 hours) or visit the HousingVic website.

From midnight 30 March 2020 to midnight 13 April 2020, an estate agent must not organise:

  • any auction to take place for the sale of residential property unless the auction will be conducted remotely
  • a person to inspect a residential property for the purposes of a prospective sale, pre-settlement or rental of the property other than by private appointment.

When organising a private appointment, the ‘Stay at Home’ directions apply, meaning that a person may not enter a residence unless:

  • No other person is in that space; or
  • Only one other person is in that space; or
  • More than one other person is in the space, but all of those persons ordinarily reside at the same premises as the person.

Inspecting vacant properties

Private inspections of a vacant residential property for potential purchasers or potential tenants can be conducted provided that:

  • only one potential purchaser or tenant enters the premises, or
  • if there is more than one potential purchaser or tenant in attendance, those people ordinarily reside in the same premises as each other.

Inspecting a residential property that is still occupied

Consumer Affairs Victoria encourages that all inspections of tenanted or occupied premises are delayed until the property is vacant, or alternatively, that only virtual tours are arranged for prospective sale or rental purposes. This is because it will be difficult for estate agents and the relevant residents to comply with the Stay at Home Directions for occupied and tenanted properties.

If you must attend a property, practice good personal hygiene including:

  • cleaning your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or a flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing.

Estate agents conducting any inspection should ensure compliance and high levels of hygiene. This could include ensuring properties (particularly high traffic areas such as door, cupboard and wardrobe handles and stair rails) are clean and disinfected. See the Department of Health and Human Services information on appropriate cleaning and disinfecting.

More activities may be deemed non-essential and closed as the coronavirus (COVID-19) progresses. Estate agents should monitor the DHHS website and the media releases from the Premier of Victoria and Prime Minister of Australia for up-to-date information.

 

Licensed and registered businesses

Other areas of the economy have also been asked to show more goodwill during this emergency.

If your association is scheduled to hold a meeting, you must follow the restrictions on gatherings.

Under the restrictions you must not enter any single, undivided indoor space if more than one other person is in that space.

Holding a meeting

If you need to hold a meeting you can:

  • use a teleconference, videoconference or other means of electronic communication.
    The Associations Incorporation Act 2012 (the Act) permits members to take part in general meetings by using technology that allows members to clearly and simultaneously communicate with each other, regardless of the incorporated association's rules about this. The Act also permits meetings of the committee of an incorporated association to be conducted by use of technology that allows members to clearly and simultaneously communicate with each other.
  • proxy voting. You must use a standard form subject to the rules of the incorporated Association. Members must be given a copy of the form with the notice of the AGM/Special General Meeting. A person acting as a proxy must act honestly and in good faith and exercise due care and diligence
  • apply for an extension of time to hold the AGM. The Registrar is currently granting three-month extensions and waiving the usual fee. To seek an extension, complete our Extension of time to hold an AGM or lodge financial statements form (Word, 97 KB) and send it to cav.registration@justice.vic.gov.au.

Financial statements

If this emergency makes it difficult to engage an independent accountant or auditor to review your financial statements, you may request an extension. Complete our Extension of time to hold an AGM or lodge financial statements form (Word, 97 KB) and send it to cav.registration@justice.vic.gov.au.

New social distancing measures apply to co-operatives

From midnight on 30 March, there are restrictions on gatherings, to protect members and the public and combat the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Under the new restrictions a person must not enter any single, undivided indoor space if more than one other person is in that space.

If your co-operative is scheduled to hold a meeting (subject to its rules), you should choose an alternative approach. You must adhere to the requirements of the rules of the co-operative and the Co-operatives National Law (Victoria) (the CNL) if you:

  • use alternative means to hold meetings including teleconference or video conference. The CNL permits directors to hold board meetings, or transact co-operative business outside physical meetings by the use of technology that allows the board to clearly and simultaneously communicate and share documents with each other. Meetings of the board can also be held by circulation of papers without the board members being physically present together. Circulation of papers can occur by use of technology.
  • use proxy voting or postal ballot. The rules of some co-operatives permit the use of proxy voting and/or postal ballot. It is strongly advised that prior to acting under any of these provisions, a co-operative seeks independent legal advice to ensure the board is acting in accordance with its regulatory requirements.
  • apply for an extension of time to hold your AGM. The Registrar will approve an extension of up to three months and waive any usual fee. To apply, complete the Application for extension or shortening of time form (Word, 128 KB) and submit to cav.registration@justice.vic.gov.au.

Having your financial statements reviewed or audited

If you are experiencing difficulties engaging an independent accountant or auditor to review your financial statements, you may also seek an extension.

To seek an extension please complete the Application for extension or shortening of time form (Word, 128 KB) and submit to cav.registration@justice.vic.gov.au.

Annual general meetings

There are restrictions on gatherings that apply to annual general meetings (AGMs) and other general meetings.

Under the restrictions you must not enter any single, undivided indoor space if more than one other person is in that space.

Holding a meeting

You must hold the meeting by teleconference or other remote technology.

Some matters do not need an AGM and can be resolved by ballot. You can conduct a ballot by:

  • post
  • telephone
  • internet
  • fax
  • other electronic communication.

Owners corporations should also consider what powers and functions they can delegate to the committee and/or manager. This can ensure effective administration between meetings.

Owners corporations should consider limiting the use of their power to decide that certain matters can only be dealt with at a general meeting. This will help provide flexibility for decision-making while social distancing is needed.

For general information, view Meetings and committees.

Payment of owners corporation manager annual registration fee

A registered owners corporation manager must pay the prescribed annual registration fee to the Business Licensing Authority (BLA) on the anniversary of the date thpe manager was last registered.

If you are facing financial hardship and cannot pay your annual registration fee, you can apply for a six-month extension prior to the due date by emailing information@bla.vic.gov.au. There is no fee associated with the extension application.

There are restrictions on gatherings that apply to annual meetings or any other meetings.

Under the new restrictions a person must not enter any single, undivided indoor space if more than one other person is in that space.

Holding meetings

If you cannot postpone a meeting, you can meet remotely via a:

  • teleconference
  • videoconference.

Managers should contact residents as soon as possible to agree on a preferred approach.

A person who owns, controls or operates a brothel, sex on premises venue, strip club, escort agency or other adult entertainment venue must not operate that facility from midnight on 30 March until midnight on 13 April 2020.

A Restricted Activity Direction issued on 30 March 2020 requires escort agencies and brothels to cease operation until midnight on 13 April 2020. This includes escort work by sole practitioners (referred to as small owner-operated business under the Sex Work Act 1994).

Products and services

Most Victorian consumers and businesses do the right thing. We urge buyers and sellers to consider the impact of excessive pricing and panic buying. We support measures to ensure supply and demand of products is fair for everyone.

We encourage all businesses to set fair prices during this emergency.

Businesses can legally set their own prices, but must not mislead consumers about the reason for increased pricing. Excessive pricing by a business may be found to be unconscionable if the product is critical to help save or protect vulnerable consumers. This would make the high prices illegal. See our information about Price rip-offs.

Private sales are not covered by Australian Consumer Law. Private sellers can legally list face masks, hand sanitiser and toilet paper on classified sites for significantly more than they sell for in stores.

We urge consumers not to pay exorbitant amounts to people reselling important sanitary products. Retailers are aiming to keep shelves stocked with important products for those who need them.

If an event cannot go ahead due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, this may be a ‘frustrated contract’. This means it is impossible to carry out the contract due to events beyond the control of all parties. In this situation, consumers are entitled to a refund for any services not provided. Organisers may deduct reasonable expenses they have already incurred. Organisers should have clear refund policies and processes, to ensure they meet their obligations.

We recommend buying tickets from ‘authorised sellers’. Tickets sold by unauthorised sellers are not always legitimate. This could make it difficult to get a refund in the event of a cancellation. If purchasing online, use a secure connection.

Insurance may provide further protection for consumers who cannot attend an event due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Check any exclusions carefully, as many policies do not cover ‘known events’.

Many public sporting events cannot go ahead due to coronavirus (COVID-19). A consumer’s first step should be to check any membership or ticket terms and conditions for the seller’s refund policy.

With sports memberships, a range of services may be offered as part of that membership. Each club should clarify which services are being cancelled because they can no longer be provided. This may be a ‘frustrated contract’. In this situation, consumers are entitled to a refund for any services not provided. Clubs may deduct reasonable expenses they have already incurred.

There is a significant increase in malicious activity surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19), including misinformation made to appear to be from trusted sources such as government agencies and media outlets.

Protect yourself against online scammers, by following these quick tips:

  • Do not reveal personal or financial information in emails, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information.
  • Use trusted sources—such as legitimate, government websites—for up-to-date, fact-based information about coronavirus (COVID-19): dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus
  • Verify a charity’s authenticity before making donations: acnc.gov.au/charity

You can report a potential scam via our Report a scam page. Learn more about current coronavirus (COVID-19) scams from the Scamwatch website.

For accurate information about coronavirus (COVID-19), use the: