Renting and disasters
We can help with renting issues in a disaster, such as a storm, flood, bushfire or earthquake.
On this page:
Rental agreements (leases) and notices
Ending the rental agreement when the property has been destroyed
If the property was totally destroyed or damaged so that it is unsafe or unfit to live in, either the renter (tenant) or the rental provider (landlord) can issue a notice to end the rental agreement immediately.
Ending the rental agreement when the property is still intact
If the property is still intact but the renter no longer wishes to live there, they must negotiate with the rental provider to end the rental agreement. If the rental provider does not agree to terminate the rental agreement, the renter can end a periodic (month-by-month) rental agreement by giving the rental provider or agent a 28-day notice of intention to vacate.
If a renter leaves the property without the rental provider's agreement before the notice period has expired or prior to the end of a fixed-term rental agreement, they will be breaking the rental agreement. The renter may be required to compensate the rental provider for lost rent, re-advertising costs and any re-letting fee.
If there is a dispute, contact us.
Alternative accommodation after the property has been destroyed
A rental provider is not legally obliged to provide alternative accommodation for a renter; their responsibilities end with the termination of the rental agreement.
If the property was destroyed or is unfit to live in and the rental agreement has ended, the bond should be returned to the renter.
If the property was not destroyed but the rental agreement is to end, the usual arrangements for the refund of the bond apply.
Renters should expect a refund of the bond, less any mutually agreed expenses incurred by the rental provider to clean or repair the property. These expenses can only be for damage caused by the renter, not damage caused by the disaster.
We may be able to assist on a case-by-case basis with other issues including loss of rental records or inability to contact the renter, agent or rental provider.
Claiming all or part of the bond to cover damage caused by a disaster
A rental provider can only claim bond money at the end of a rental agreement for the cost of repairs or cleaning due to the renter's use of the property.
Compensation for renter possessions destroyed or damaged in a disaster
Normally, a renter is responsible for their own contents insurance.
Unless the renter provider can be shown to be negligent, the renter will bear the cost of damage to their possessions.
Paying the rent by direct debit on a property that is not liveable
Renters should contact their rental provider, agent or financial institution and ask for the direct debit to be cancelled.
If a renter is unsuccessful or cannot find their details, they should contact us.
Reducing the rent because the property has become damaged
If a disaster has caused damage to property facilities such as the garage, swimming pool, sheds or outbuildings, the rental provider should consider reducing the rent.
In these circumstances, the renter has the right to apply to us to assess whether a rent reduction is reasonable.
Repairs and utility services
Responsibility for cleaning debris caused by a disaster
The rental provider is responsible for maintaining the property, including cleaning or clearing any debris caused by a disaster.
Before arranging cleaning, the rental provider should contact the local authorities, such as the emergency services, who may already have a cleaning program in place.
The renter is only responsible for any cleaning that arises from their use of the property.
When engaging cleaning and repair services, rental providers should avoid employing tradespeople who contact them suddenly offering to complete work at cheap rates – see our warning about fake tradies (also known as travelling con men).
Repairs on a damaged property
If the damage caused by a disaster is relatively minor, the renter can serve a notice to the rental provider for the repairs to be carried out within 14 days. If repairs are urgently required, the renter should contact their rental provider immediately and explain that urgent repairs are needed.
Please be aware that there may be delays: it may be difficult to get tradespeople to a property, as many properties may need repair at the same time. However, the renter should contact us if the rental provider does not arrange for urgent repairs to be fixed when the renter asks for them.
Rental provider inspection of damage to a rental property
If a property has been destroyed or damaged so that it is unfit to live in, a rental provider can inspect it at any time, as long as they have the permission of local authorities.
The rental provider should contact the police or emergency services before travelling to a disaster area.
The usual arrangements for inspections apply if the property is still rented and the renter is living there. A rental provider can inspect the property provided they give the renter appropriate notice.
Special laws for emergency repairs
Businesses can approach consumers and supply urgent goods and services after a natural disaster in some circumstances, without complying with all unsolicited sales requirements – for example, door-to-door sales requirements.
These emergency repair contracts can be used when:
- a state of emergency has been declared for your area and the contract is only for repairs required by the disaster
- the supplier doing the work has a relevant
- state, territory or national licence to do the work - for example, a building or contractor's licence
- the repairs are only to:
- rectify a hazard or potential hazard on your property
- protect the health and safety of people on the property
- prevent substantial damage to your property.
In such cases, the business:
- does not have to give or notify the consumer of the 10-business-day cooling off period
- can provide the goods or services under the contract and accept payment within 10 business days.
A trader must not call on a consumer:
- before 9am or after 6pm, Monday to Friday
- before 9am or after 5pm on Saturday
- on a Sunday or public holiday.
Responsibility for arranging for utility services to be restored
If a utility service has been cut off because of damage to the property, the rental provider is responsible for repairing the property so the service can be restored.
If there is no damage to the property, the renter must contact the utility company and arrange for services to be restored.
Warning: fake tradies (also known as travelling con men)
Fake tradies and unlicensed traders target disaster-affected areas, offering cheap, cash-only repairs to roofs, driveways and fences.
If you take up such offers, you run the risk of:
- substandard work
- being left out of pocket if the trader disappears before finishing the job
- being unable to contact the trader once
- they have been paid
- paying more to have a legitimate tradesperson repair shoddy work.
Before you employ a tradesperson:
- contact your insurer first, to check your policy and find out whether you are covered
- ask around for suitable tradespeople
- check their credentials
- get quotes
- do not pay in full up-front
- avoid tradespeople who give only mobile numbers and first names. You may not be able to contact them if there is a problem
- be wary of door-to-door offers - get proof that the tradesperson is offering the deal legally and appropriately
- check with your local council whether a building permit or other approval is needed for the repair work.
Ask for a tradesperson’s full name and practising number so you can check it with the Victorian Building Authority on 1300 815 127.
For trades that do not require registration, ask the tradesperson for the membership number of their professional association.
Members of such organisations will satisfy the association’s membership criteria, which usually includes insurance and working to professional codes of ethics.
If you suspect fake tradies in your area, call the national hotline on 1300 133 408. Calling this number costs the same as a local call. Additional charges may apply if you are calling from overseas, on a mobile or payphone.
For more information, view Fake tradies.