The information in this Fact Sheet is not legal advice. It is intended as a general guide only. It applies only to legislation current in the state of Victoria, Australia. For information regarding a specific tenancy problem, phone the Tenants Union Advice Line on (03) 9416 2577. The Tenants Union accepts no responsibility for actions based on this information, nor for actions based on electronic translations of this information.
Landlords and estate agents often get away with acting illegally or unprofessionally because tenants don't take action against them. This situation will not get any better unless more tenants stand up for their rights. If your landlord or agent has acted illegally or unprofessionally, you should consider making an official complaint.
What the law says
The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 is the legislation that sets out the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords in Victoria. If a landlord or their agent commits an offence under the Act, they can be prosecuted in the Magistrates' Court by Consumer Affairs Victoria and if they are convicted they can be fined. However it's up to you to make the complaint and ask Consumer Affairs Victoria to prosecute.
There is a time limit of 3 years (previously 12 months) for prosecutions,starting from the date the offence was committed. However, we recommend that you take immediate action to show that you take the matter seriously.
Offences by landlords and agents
Your landlord or agent has committed an offence if they do not provide you with the necessary documents at the start of your tenancy including:
a Statement of Rights and Duties (booklet from Consumer Affairs Victoria)
a signed copy of your tenancy agreement
2 copies of a signed Condition Report (if you have paid a bond)
the landlord or agent's full name, address, telephone and fax numbers
in the case of an agent, a statement setting out the agent's power to authorise urgent repairs, the maximum amount of urgent repairs they can authorise, and the agent's telephone or fax number for urgent repairs
Other offences include:
trying to evict you illegally (without a warrant carried out by the police)
failing to give you a receipt for your rent payments
holding onto or selling any of your goods because you owe rent
not lodging your bond with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority within 10 business days of you paying it (previously 5 days)
trying to charge for things that landlords or agents are not entitled to charge for (eg a property inspection, a tenancy agreement, issuing the first rent payment card or establishing and using direct debit facilities)
entering your rented premises without meeting the proper notice and entry requirements or without having a reasonable excuse (see the Privacy Fact Sheet for more information)
failing to obey an order from the Tribunal
Complaints about real estate agents
Consumer Affairs Victoria has established the Estate Agent Resolution Service(EARS) to deal with complaints about real estate agents in Victoria. The service has been set up to help consumers and tenants who are having a dispute with an agent. You can contact EARS on 1300 737 030.
EARS can provide information, mediation and a range of remedies against agents such as warnings, undertakings (a formal promise) or more severe penalties.
The complaint process with EARS depends on the severity of the problem, the supporting evidence you can provide and what you as a tenant want to do about the complaint.
EARS can refer serious or repeat offences to the Business Licensing Authority who may take action to suspend or cancel an estate agent's licence. Agents can also be prosecuted for breaches of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 in the Magistrates' Court.
Complaints about agents and landlords
Contact the Tenants Union or another tenant advice service for more information about offences. If you believe an offence has been committed, you can write to Consumer Affairs Victoria (see sample letter below). Remember to attach copies of any relevant documents.
Consumer Affairs should write to you within a couple of weeks to confirm they received your letter. If they tell you that they won't be investigating the matter, contact the Tenants Union or another tenant advice service. If they do decide to investigate, they will contact you to get an official statement.
Keep in mind that if Consumer Affairs Victoria decides to prosecute, you will probably have to go to court as a witness and give evidence.
Sample letter of complaint
The following is a sample letter of complaint to Consumer Affairs Victoria:
Investigations and Compliance
Consumer Affairs Victoria
Level 2, 452 Flinders Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
(your current address)
Dear Sir or Madam,
COMPLAINT ABOUT (LANDLORD/ESTATE AGENT)
Landlord: (name and address of the offending landlord if applicable)
Estate Agent: (name and address of the offending estate agent if applicable)
Premises: (address of the rented property)
As the (tenant/former tenant) of the above premises, I wish to lodge a complaint about the actions of (name of landlord and/or estate agent). I believe there has been a breach of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (list the section numbers of the Act if you know them).
(Describe the actions or events leading to your complaint including names,addresses, times, dates etc.)
Please find attached copies of the following documents (list any relevant documents you are attaching to the letter).
I request that you investigate this matter promptly with a view to prosecution. I look forward to your early reply. Should you require any further information please contact me on (your current telephone number).
For more information phone the Tenants Union Advice Line on (03) 9416 2577 or contact EARS on 1300 737 030.