On 15 April, the Victorian Government announced new measures to support renters during COVID-19. This includes a freeze on any rent increases for six months, and also a freeze on evictions (unless there is criminal damage).

Most notably, they committed $80 million worth of COVID-19 rent relief to provide grants of up to $2000 to anyone experiencing rental hardship due to COVID-19.

The grant is paid directly to your agent or landlord to contribute to your rental payments. But how does it work? How do you negotiate with your landlord or agent? We’ve created this step-by-step guide to support you.

1. Determine whether you are eligible for a COVID-19 related rent relief grant

You must have less than $5,000 in savings and your income must be less than $1,903 per week.  You must also still be paying at least 30% of your income in rent (you can use this handy rent calculator here).

If you aren’t eligible, you may qualify for alternative assistance from the Victorian Government or Commonwealth Rent Assistance through Centrelink.

2. Write to your landlord or property manager

Next you will have to write to your property manager or landlord to ask to reduce your rent to less than 30% of your income, or for a deferral of payments. We know this sounds difficult, but it is important to have an empathetic and fair discussion about what you can do.

If you’re not sure where to begin, Tenants Victoria’s template is a useful place to start. Make sure you update it with your own details and situation, as well as reference the most up-to-date information on rent relief too.

If you are able to come to an agreement with your property manager and landlord, then you can skip to Step 4.

3. If you are unable to reach an agreement with your landlord or property manager, contact Consumer Affairs Victoria.

Consumer Affairs Victoria will help resolve any disagreements through someone who can negotiate fairly on both sides. There is no cost for this service.

4. Register your revised rental agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria.

When you reach an agreement, make sure you lodge the agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria.

5. Now it’s time to apply for the COVID-19 Rent Relief Grant

If you are eligible for a COVID-19 Rent Relief Grant and have lodged your revised agreement, you should receive an email asking for more details about your situation, so that your application can be assessed. You will have 14 business days from the arrival of the email to provide the required information.

If you do not receive an email, but believe you are eligible for a COVID-19 Rent Relief Grant, you should send an enquiry to Consumer Affairs Victoria.

6. Wait two weeks for the processing of the application

The Rent Relief Grant will be paid directly to your real-estate agent or landlord to top up your rental payments. 

7. The Department of Health and Human Service will let you know once the grant has been paid.

They will also let you know if your application is not successful.

8. You will not have to pay the grant back.

Once the grant is paid, you do not have to pay the money back. It’s as simple as that!

We hope this simplified guide helps you navigate through the negotiation of rent during these tricky times.

Remember to check out whether you might also qualify for alternative assistance from the Victorian Government or Commonwealth Rent Assistance through Centrelink.

Make sure you know what your rights are through Consumer Affairs Victoria and find out more information around the Rent Relief Grant here.

Try to stay safe and connected.