claiming compensation for tenants - Tenants Victoria

compensation for tenants

You might be able to get compensation from the landlord if they breach the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (the RTA) or your tenancy agreement (lease).

This page provides information on some common examples where tenants may be able to get compensation. 

The information provided here is a guide only and not intended to be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.  If you need more information, or your situation is not covered here, you should contact us, your local TAAP service, Tenancy Plus provider or Community Legal Centre.

Please note: The information on this page refers to tenants and the relevant sections of the RTA. There are similar (but not identical) sections that apply for rooming house and caravan park residents.  Please contact us, your local TAAP service, Tenancy Plus provider or Community Legal Centre if you need assistance working out which sections of the RTA are relevant to you.

TIP: do not stop paying rent. If you think you are entitled to compensation but are having difficulty getting this resolved with the landlord, there are steps you can follow to apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for compensation orders, see below.  If you don’t pay rent, the landlord might try to evict you for ‘rent arrears ’.

can you claim?

You can claim compensation from the landlord if you can show:

  1. you have suffered loss, damage or significant inconvenience, and
  2. it was caused by the landlord or their agent breaching their duties under the law or the tenancy agreement (lease).

the loss (your claim)

Depending on your situation, some examples of what you could claim for are:

  • loss of money
  • loss of the use of your home
  • damage to your belongings
  • loss of facilities if you were promised something in your tenancy agreement that the landlord has not provided, or if something that was once there is removed
  • loss for significant inconveniences you have experienced

the cause

You need to show your loss was caused because the landlord or agent broke the law or the terms in your lease. In other words: they did something that they shouldn’t do, or didn’t do something when they should have.

evidence

It is up to you to prove your claim, so the more evidence you have of the landlord’s breaches and the losses you have suffered, the better. 

Make sure you tell the landlord or agent about the problem from the start and keep evidence of the problem and evidence that you told them.

It is best to tell the landlord or agent in writing. We recommend you use the Notice for Breach of Duty to Landlord form from the Consumer Affairs Victoria website when reporting breaches.

Keep copies of all your evidence as you go, for example: all your contact with the landlord, agent or anyone else involved, such as a tradesperson; photos or videos; receipts for anything you have had to pay for, or quotes for anything you need to buy.

TIP: It is a good idea to scan or copy all your evidence into the “cloud” or email it to yourself for safe keeping. It is also a good idea if you have any witnesses to the problem that you ask them at the time to prepare a statutory declaration or sign and date a written statement as to what they witnessed.

personal injury

If you want compensation for pain, suffering, physical injury or death, you need to contact a Personal Injury Lawyer for advice.

For personal injury you might be able to claim under a different area of law — but not the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 — so the steps you need to take will be different. See Find a lawyer (LIV website).

You can include medical evidence in your compensation claim to show how serious your loss is, but VCAT cannot award compensation for personal injury.

when can you claim? (time limits)

You can claim compensation up to 6 years after the loss, damage or significant inconvenience happened, and you can claim either:

  • while you are still living at the rented home, or
  • after you have moved out.

common reasons to claim

The most common reasons to claim compensation are for breaches of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 RTA by the landlord, such as:

  • repair issues (section 68)
  • quiet enjoyment being disturbed (section 67)
  • the home not being vacant or clean on the day you are supposed to move in (section 65)
  • external doors and windows not having locks, or where a lock that has a key is changed but you haven’t been given the new key (section 70)
  • water appliances, fixtures or fittings being below standard (section 69).

Compensation is not limited to the above breaches.  You might also be able to claim for other problems you have with your tenancy, and the landlord not following the law or the tenancy agreement.  This could include claiming compensation for:

  • being illegally evicted
  • the landlord unlawfully disposing of your goods or personal documents
  • misrepresentations by the landlord, such as promising products or services but not providing them
  • your belongings being damaged when the landlord, agent or someone they invite enters your home
  • being charged for electricity, gas or water where there is no separate meter 
  • the landlord reducing or withdrawing services or facilities or other items at the home
  • invalid rent increases
  • the landlord refusing to return overpaid rent
  • the landlord refusing to return a deposit you paid to hold the home
  • significant inconveniences you have experienced as a result of the landlord failing to follow the law or tenancy agreement

compensation for breaches

The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (RTA) provides a number of duties that the landlord needs to obey.  If the landlord or their agent breach these duties, you can claim compensation for losses you have suffered because of the breach.

repair issues (section 68)

By law, the landlord has a duty to ensure your home is maintained in good repair.  You may be able to claim compensation if the landlord or agent breaches this duty and delays or does not do repairs.

For example:

The landlord didn’t fix, or delayed fixing:

  • a leaking roof, and you could not use part of your home until it was fixed
  • the hot water system, and you could not shower at home until it was fixed
  • the heater, and you had to buy another heater to use until it was fixed
  • the stove, and you could not cook at home until it was fixed.

You might also get compensation if you had an increased electrical bill due to repairs being done, for example, running heaters or fans to dry out carpets after a burst water pipe, or tradespeople operating a lot of power tools when doing repairs.

Depending on the circumstances, you might also be able to claim for loss or damage to your things if this was caused by a repair issue that the landlord knew about, or should have known about, but didn’t fix or delayed fixing.

You can also claim compensation for loss of quiet enjoyment where this has been affected by repair issues.  See quiet enjoyment, below.

You will need to show both your loss and the cause to make your claim, so remember to keep evidence of the problem and your costs.

“quiet enjoyment” disturbed (section 67)

By law, the landlord has a duty to take all reasonable steps to ensure that you have quiet enjoyment of your home. You may be able to claim compensation if the landlord or agent breaches this duty.

For example:

The landlord, their agent, or someone they have sent to your home has not followed the entry rules in the RTA, such as:

  • turning up at your home without giving you proper notice
  • entering your home without a proper reason

You cannot fully enjoy your home, for example:

  • you cannot enjoy all or part of your home because of repair issues, such as a roof leak the landlord hasn’t fixed or delays fixing
  • you cannot enjoy all or part of your home because of tradespeople working there
  • you cannot enjoy all or part of your home because it wasn’t reasonably clean or vacant on the day you were supposed to move in
  • you cannot get in to your home because the landlord or agent haven’t given you keys
  • you cannot get in to your home because the landlord or agent have changed the locks or illegally evicted you

You need to show both your loss and the cause to make your claim, so remember to keep evidence of the problem and your costs.

locks or keys not provided (section 70 and section 67)

By law, the landlord must provide locks to secure all external doors and windows. If they change any lock that has a key they must give you a key as soon as possible.

You can claim compensation if your landlord or agent breaches this duty.

For example:

  • you cannot get in to your home because the landlord or agent has changed the locks but not given you a key (see also quiet enjoyment, above.)
  • your home was broken into and your belongings were damaged or stolen because the landlord didn’t provide locks for all the external doors and windows

Note: If you cannot lock up your home you should report this to the landlord and agent immediately  and, where locks are broken or faulty, take action to get urgent repairs done straight away.  You should also do all you can to keep yourself and your belongings safe.  Even though the landlord is at fault for not providing locks, it might affect your claim if you did not act on this quickly and take any steps you could to protect yourself and your belongings.

You need to show both your loss and the cause to make your claim, so remember to keep evidence of the problem and your costs.

water products below standard (section 69)

By law, when the landlord replaces an appliance, fitting or fixture that uses or supplies water they must use products with a water saving rating of 3-stars or above. There are very few exceptions. 

You may be able to claim compensation if the landlord or agent breaches this duty.

For example:

You receive a really high water bill after the landlord replaced:

  • a broken dishwasher with one below the minimum rating
  • a broken shower with one below the minimum rating
  • a broken toilet with one below the minimum rating
  • a broken tap with one below the minimum rating

You need to show both your loss and the cause to make your claim, so remember to keep evidence of the problem and your costs.

For information about water ratings see WELS (website)

not clean when you move in (section 65)

By law, the landlord must ensure the home is reasonably clean on the day you are supposed to move in.  If it isn’t you are not required to move in until the home has been made reasonably clean.

You can claim compensation if the landlord or agent breaches this duty.

For example:

If the home was too dirty for you to move in straight away, you:

  • are entitled to have any rent you have paid reimbursed until the home is made reasonably clean and you can move in
  • could claim for other costs and inconveniences you’ve incurred because you couldn’t move in until the home is made reasonably clean, OR

if you move in and had to clean the home yourself because the landlord refused to clean it you could claim for:

  • any costs you incurred for cleaning
  • any loss of your use of the home while it wasn’t reasonably clean

You need to show both your loss and the cause to make your claim, so remember to keep evidence of the problem and your costs.

not vacant when you move in (section 65)

By law, the landlord must ensure the home you rent is vacant on the day you move in.  Vacant includes that no-one else is living there and also that no-one else’s belongings are left there.

You can claim compensation if the landlord or agent breaches this duty.

For example:

If there is someone else living at the home on the day you are supposed to move in, or you’ve rented the home unfurnished but it’s full of things that belong to the landlord or previous tenant and you cannot move in straight away you:

  • are entitled to have any rent you’ve paid reimbursed up until the home is vacant and you can move in
  • could claim for other costs and inconveniences you’ve incurred because you couldn’t move in until the home was vacant

If you move in but could not use all of your home because the landlord was still using part of it to store their own things, or things that belong to a previous tenant, you can ask the landlord to remove these things and can claim compensation for not being able to enjoy the entire home. For example:

  • the home is rented with a garage, but you cannot use it because the landlord is storing their own things there, OR
  • you have rented the home unfurnished, but furniture has been left behind and you cannot get full use of the home until it is removed.

You need to show both your loss and the cause to make your claim, so remember to keep evidence of the problem and your costs.

compensation for other reasons

Compensation is not limited to the above breach sections of the RTA. You might also be able to claim for other problems you have experienced with your tenancy and the landlord not following the law or the tenancy agreement.  There are some examples on this page, but this is not a full list—there may be other areas not mentioned here where you could claim.  If your situation isn’t dealt with here, we recommend you contact us, your local TAAP service, Tenancy Plus provider or Community Legal Centre for advice on your particular situation.

illegal eviction

If the landlord wants to evict you, they must follow all the steps in the law. Only the police can evict you. If anyone else tries to evict you, you should call the police immediately.

You can claim compensation if the landlord illegally evicts you.

You can claim for inconveniences, costs, loss or damage you have suffered because of the landlord’s illegal actions, including, but not limited to:

  • having to pay to stay somewhere else while you couldn’t access your home
  • having your belongings damaged or destroyed during the illegal eviction
  • inconveniences you have suffered as a result of being illegally evicted

You need to show both your loss and the cause to make your claim, so remember to keep evidence of the problem and your costs.

illegally removing your goods

It is against the law for the landlord to take or dispose of your belongings because you owe them rent. 

The landlord also must not take or dispose of your belongings if you left them behind when you moved out, unless they follow all of the steps in the law first.

You can claim compensation if the landlord has broken these laws.

For example, you could claim for:

  • having to buy replacements for your belongings they got rid of
  • fixing things that got damaged because they were left on the street

Note: You may not get the full cost for replacement unless you can show your goods were new when they were disposed of, destroyed or damaged, or that the only suitable replacement is something new. For example, there may be health risks in purchasing a second hand mattress if yours has been disposed of by the landlord.  For this reason, you may also wish to consider tenants’ insurance for your belongings.

If the landlord has legally sold your goods you can apply for compensation to have any money left over from the sale paid to you.

You need to show both your loss and the cause to make your claim, and make sure you keep evidence of the problem and your costs.

damage to your goods during entry (section 90)

You can claim compensation if your belongings have been damaged during a visit to your home by the landlord, their agent, or someone they have allowed in.

You need to show both your loss and the cause to make your claim and make sure you keep evidence of the problem and your costs.

Note: if your goods were damaged beyond repair you may not get the full cost for replacement unless you can show they were new when they were damaged, or that the only suitable replacement is something new. For example, there may be health risks in purchasing a second hand mattress.  For this reason, you may also wish to consider tenants’ insurance for your belongings.

broken promises

You can claim compensation if the landlord does not provide things they agreed to in the lease or in a separate agreement you have with them.

For example:

  • if you have to pay high mobile phone/data bills because the landlord does not install a phone or internet connection that they promised
  • if you have to buy heating/cooling products because the landlord does not install a heater or air conditioner that they promised
  • if you have to pay for a gardener because the landlord does not provide the gardening that they promised

You need to show both your loss and the cause to make your claim and make sure you keep evidence of the problem and your costs.

how much to claim

The most common problems Tenants’ Victoria hear from tenants wanting compensation are in relation to repair issues and disturbances to quiet enjoyment. 

The following addresses claiming compensation for these areas.  But compensation is not limited to these areas only.  There are many reasons why a tenant would want to make a compensation claim and where they would be entitled to do so.  Some of this information may be able to be applied to your individual circumstances, but if it is not addressed here we recommend you contact us , your local TAAP service, Tenancy Plus provider or Community Legal Centre for advice on your particular situation.

how much can you claim?

At the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), you can claim up to $10,000 compensation under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (RTA). If you want more than $10,000, you can claim under the Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2012 (ACLFTA). For large claims you should contact us, your local TAAP service, Tenancy Plus provider or Community Legal Centre for advice before you apply.

working out how much to claim

reasonable costs

If you apply to VCAT for compensation they will only award costs that they think are reasonable. They may also look at what actions you took to minimise your losses.

You will need to be able to explain how you worked out your costs and show that they are reasonable.  This does not mean you should not ask for everything that you think is fair, but do not overspend as you may not get it all back.

For example, if you had to stay somewhere else while repairs were being done at your home you can ask for the cost of this accommodation in your claim. But make sure wherever you choose is reasonably priced as you may not get all of your money back if you chose somewhere expensive and there were suitable less expensive options available.

what costs can you claim?

What you can claim will depend on the reason for your claim.  As repair and quiet enjoyment issues are the most common reasons tenants contact us for compensation advice we have some examples below on what you could claim and how to calculate your claim.

repairs

If the landlord delayed or didn’t fix repair problems at your home you can claim compensation for losses you have incurred as a result, including loss of quiet enjoyment.

Some examples of what you might want to include in your claim could be:

  • the cost of a heater you had to buy because the heater in the home was broken
  • the cost of showering at your local gym because the hot water system was broken
  • the cost of food deliveries because the stove was broken and you could not cook at home
  • the cost of repairing or replacing belongings damaged or destroyed from a leaking roof
  • the cost of dry-cleaning clothes affected by mould from a leaking pipe
  • a reduction in your rent for times you could not use and enjoy your entire home because of repair problems
  • the cost of alternative accommodation if the repair problems were so great you could not stay at home
  • increased utility bills resulting from repair problems, such as:
    • an increased water bill because of a faulty hot water system
    • an increased electrical bill due to repairs being carried out, for example, running heaters or fans to dry out carpets after a rook leak, or having tradespeople operating a lot of power tools when carrying out repairs

Note: If claiming for belongings that were damaged due to the landlord delaying or not fixing things you may not get the full cost for replacement unless you can show your belongings were new when they were damaged or destroyed, or that the only suitable replacement is something new. For example, there may be health risks in purchasing a second hand mattress if yours has been disposed of by the landlord.  For this reason, you may also wish to consider tenants’ insurance for your belongings.

quiet enjoyment

If the landlord interferes with your quiet enjoyment you can claim compensation for losses you have incurred as a result.

Some examples of what you might want to include in a claim for loss of quiet enjoyment could be:

  • the landlord sending a tradesperson to work at your home without giving you notice or getting your consent
  • the landlord opening your home as an “open for inspection”, which the law doesn’t allow them to do
  • not being able to use and enjoy your entire home because of repair issues, such as
    • a roof leak the landlord hasn’t fixed or delays fixing
    • tradespeople working at your home

calculating your claim

For the loss of quiet enjoyment Tenants Victoria often uses the following equation to demonstrate how the amount has been estimated:

A x B x C = $ compensation for the loss of enjoyment/use

Where:

A = the total number of days without the enjoyment/use

B = your daily rent = $ monthly rent times 12 divided by 365, or

                                      = $ fortnightly rent divided by 14, or

                                      = $ weekly rent divided by 7

C = % estimate of loss

Then once you have calculated the amount you want for quiet enjoyment you can add amounts for any other losses and inconveniences you have suffered, for example having to buy a heater if the landlord delayed or did not fix the heater at your home.

% estimate of loss

This can be the most difficult part of the claim to work out and you may need to explain to VCAT why the percentage you have decided on is reasonable for the loss you have suffered. 

For example, if you are renting a five-bedroom home and could not use one of the bedrooms because of a leaking roof, but all other rooms were unaffected, claiming a rent reduction of 50% would not be reasonable as you have not lost the use of 50% of your home.  But if you could not use two bedrooms and had to move furniture from those rooms into other rooms to avoid damage to your things or to allow repairs to be done, then claiming 50% may be reasonable.

example 1: a broken heater

Your heater broke during the colder months of winter.  You repeatedly asked the landlord to fix it, but it took two months to be fixed.  You had another heater, but it was expensive to run so you only used it to heat your living room where you could close the doors to keep the heat in, and you used electric blankets in the bedrooms.

By failing to fix the heater for two months the landlord has breached their duty to keep your home in good repair (section 68) and their duty to ensure you have quiet enjoyment of your home (section 67).  You can claim compensation for the losses you have suffered because of these breaches.

Making up a table of your losses and the actions you have taken can help you show how you have calculated your claim and that it is reasonable.  It might look something like this:

*Make sure you keep your evidence, for example, written communication and phone logs for times you contacted the landlord about the issue, your electricity bills, and any other evidence that might help your claim.

example 2: claiming for multiple issues

If you want to claim compensation for multiple issues at your home where you suffered loss or inconvenience because the landlord breached their duties under the law or the tenancy agreement, you might want to claim them at the same time.  For example:

*Make sure you keep your evidence, for example written communication and phone logs for times you contacted the landlord about the issue, breach notices issued to the landlord, receipts, photos of the issue and the damage, as well as any other evidence that might help your claim.

A template of the tables used in this guide can be found below.

how to claim

step 1. decide when to claim

You can claim compensation up to 6 years from the date of the breach, and you can claim either:

  • while you are still living at the rented home, or
  • after you have moved out

repairs

If you are claiming compensation because the landlord did not do repairs it is a good idea to wait until the repairs have been done before you claim, as VCAT will not always hear cases where the compensation is still adding up.  However, you should notify the landlord that you intend to claim compensation, and that the longer they delay the repairs the more you will be able to claim.  This will sometimes persuade the landlord to carry out repairs more quickly.

We also recommend you follow the steps for getting repairs done, including applying to VCAT for repair orders. This is because VCAT might not order compensation for the entire time the repair was not done if you did not take action to try to get the repairs done or to get repair orders.

step 2. decide how much to claim

You will need to put a dollar value on everything you want to claim, including claiming for a loss of amenity or reduced quiet enjoyment if you were unable to use and enjoy part or all of your home.  See working out how much to claim, above .  If you apply to VCAT for compensation orders you must be able to explain the amount you are claiming for each item and provide proof of your claim, so in addition to your calculations for loss of quiet enjoyment you will also need proof of other costs such as receipts or quotes (see evidence, above).

step 3. write to the landlord (Notice for Breach of Duty)

If you are still living at the home and are claiming for a breach of duty under the RTA you need to give the landlord a Notice for Breach of Duty to Landlord (available from Consumer Affairs Victoria Website).

completing a Notice for Breach of Duty form

When you fill out a Notice for Breach of Duty form you must include:

Landlord details
1. Landlord’s name — Make sure you write the landlord’s name on the form and not the name of the real estate agent. If you don’t know the landlord’s name check your lease or ask the agent. If you live in public housing the landlord is the “Director of Housing”.
2. Landlord’s address —  It’s okay to write the agent’s address on the form.

Tenant details
3.  Tenant name/s — You can write one or more tenants’ names here. You should name everyone on the tenancy agreement.
4.  Rented premises — Write the address of the rented premises.
5.  Address for serving documents — If that is the same address as your answer in 4 write “as above”, if not write the address that you want documents to be sent to.
6.  Provide contact telephone numbers.

Service details
7.  Specify how the notice will be served on the landlord (e.g. by registered post) and the date it will be served.
8.  Sign the form.
9.  Clearly print your name.

Reason for breach of duty notice
10. Reason for notice – At the beginning of the form there are reasons and section numbers that you can copy and paste into the reason section.  Choose those that relate to the landlord’s breach, for example, if claiming for repairs you would choose section 68 and also section 67 if your quiet enjoyment was affected because of the repairs.  Then include as much detail as possible including dates. You can claim for several breaches on the one form.  If there is not enough space, write “see attached” and provide the details on a separate sheet of paper.
11. The loss or damage – include details of the loss, damage and/or inconvenience you have suffered as a result of the landlord’s breach. Provide as much detail as possible. You may want to attach receipts for expenses you have incurred, or quotes for future costs you will have to pay.  You can write “see attached” in the box and provide the details on a separate sheet.
12. Compensation or compliance – the notice can be used to ask the landlord to fix the problem, to not commit a similar breach, and/or for compensation.  If you are trying to get the landlord to carry out their duties and fix the problem, you should state what it is that you want them to do (e.g. fix the leaking roof), see giving the landlord a breach of duty notice. If you are claiming compensation, fill in the amount that you are claiming.  If asking for both compliance and compensation cross out “or” and write “and”. This is a statement that informs the landlord that you will apply to VCAT if they do not pay you the compensation you are asking for and/or fix the problem.
13. Receipts, other evidence – Tick the box to indicate whether or not you have attached any documents to the form.

The landlord has 14 days from the time they receive the notice to comply.  If they do not, you may apply to VCAT for compensation and/or compliance orders.

If you are still living at the home but are not claiming for a breach of duty you do not need to give the landlord a Notice for Breach of Duty, but you should still write to them to tell them why you want compensation, the amount you want, and let them know that you will apply to VCAT for compensation orders if they do not pay the compensation within 14 days.

If you have moved out of the home, you do not need to give the landlord a Notice for Breach of Duty and can go straight to applying to VCAT for compensation orders. But if you want to avoid VCAT (and the VCAT application fee) you could try writing a letter to the landlord first. Include the reasons why you want compensation, the amount you want, and let them know that you will apply to VCAT if they do not pay the compensation within 14 days.

step 4. keep copies for yourself      

Keep a copy of the notice, or letter, and any evidence you want to attach. Make sure the copies are good enough that you can read everything clearly and keep them safe, as you will need them later if you apply to VCAT for compensation orders.

step 5. give it to the landlord

Give a copy of the notice or letter and copies of any evidence you have attached to the landlord or agent. 

We recommend you use registered post or hand deliver it so you can prove they received it. If hand delivering, write down the date, time and name of the person you handed it to. If sending by registered post, keep your receipt and tracking number.

As set out in step 3, the landlord has 14 days from the time they receive the notice to comply.  If you send it by mail, you will need allow extra time for delivery.  See Australia Post delivery times.

If you want to send this by email, there are a few things to watch out for:

  • You can only send notices by email if the landlord or agent has agreed. It’s a good idea for you to have something in writing from the landlord or agent that says they agree to you sending notices by email.
  • You can only send notices to the email address they have agreed to. Because landlords and agents might have more than one email address, it’s important that you have something in writing from them that says exactly which email address you can send notices to.
  • You may not know if they have read it. You can ask them to reply to confirm they have received your email or you could set up a “read-receipt” on the email you send (this can send an automatic reply if they okay it) or call them to find out if they have received it.

what happens next?

If the landlord pays the compensation you have asked for then you do not need to take any further action.

If the landlord wants to negotiate and settle the claim to avoid going to VCAT, make sure you put any settlement agreement you come to in writing and that it contains all of the details of your agreement, for example:

  • the date of the agreement
  • what was agreed—for example, what the compensation is for and the amount that will be paid
  • the date by which the landlord needs to pay the compensation
  • what action may be taken if the compensation has not been paid by the due date, for example:
    • that you may exercise your right to apply to VCAT for compensation orders; or
    • if you have already applied to VCAT, that you will not withdraw your application until the compensation in the agreement has been paid in full

Note:  if you have already applied to VCAT we recommend you do not to withdraw your application until you have received all of the compensation you and the landlord agreed on.  Alternatively, you can still go ahead with your application and attend a hearing where you can ask VCAT to make consent orders matching your settlement agreement. That way, you will have a legally binding order about the compensation the landlord is to pay you.

If the landlord does not pay the compensation and you cannot settle the claim, you can apply to VCAT for compensation orders.

applying to VCAT for compensation orders

If the landlord has not paid the compensation within 14 days of receiving your notice or letter asking for compensation you can apply to VCAT for compensation orders.

before you start

Make sure you follow the steps at how to claim.

step 1. fill in the VCAT application form

Use the General Application form [VCAT website].

At “claim details” you will need to include the section or sections of the law your claim relates to. 

For example:

  • if you are still living at the home and you are claiming:
    • for breaches relating to repairs and quiet enjoyment, your claim details will be “Section 209 – compensation for breaches of sections 67 and 68, and Section 452 – general dispute”
    • for damage to your goods caused during an entry by the landlord, your claim details will be “Section 210 – compensation under section 90 for damage caused during entry and Section 452 – general dispute”
    • to have overpaid rent reimbursed because the landlord asked you to pay more rent without giving you a valid notice of rent increase, your claim details will be “Section 210 – compensation for an invalid rent increase under section 44 and Section 452 – general dispute”
  • If you have moved out of the home and are claiming for breaches relating to repairs, your claim details will be “Section 210 – compensation for breaches of sections 67 and 68, and Section 452 – general dispute”.  If you have moved out, you are not required to serve a Notice for Breach of Duty on the Landlord before applying to VCAT.

The VCAT Residential Tenancies List Application: Tenant Guide (General Application Form) provides further information on what to include in your claim details. If you cannot find the right section in the guide you can contact us for advice or alternatively you can put “Section 452 – general dispute” in the claim details and provide as much information as you can about why you are claiming and how the landlord is at fault.

You then need to provide complete details about your claim.  You should include details:

  • about when your tenancy started and how much rent you pay
  • of the breach by the landlord
  • of your contact with the landlord about the breach*
  • of your losses, damage and inconvenience as a result of the breach
  • the amount of your claim
  • of any attachments/evidence you will be providing in support your claim, for example, evidence of the breach, your notice to landlord*, the table you used to work out how much to claim and your receipts or quotes.

*If you are still living at the home and applying under section 209 you must include a copy of the Notice for Breach of Duty to Landlord with your application.

If you need more space to provide all of the details of your claim, you may use separate pages to complete your details then attach those to the application form.

Fees – you may have to pay an application fee. See fees and costs for a VCAT hearing. You should ask to be reimbursed the application fee in your application.  The reimbursement of any application fee will be a decision for the Tribunal based on the outcome of the hearing.

step 2. get your evidence together

Collect all the evidence you have to support your application, such as:

  • evidence of the problem, for example, if the claim relates to repairs, you could include photos or video showing what needed to be repaired as it might help to show how you were affected
  • details about contact you have had with the landlord or agent about the problem, for example, emails, telephone call logs
  • details about whether or not the problem was fixed and when it was fixed
  • a copy of the Notice for Breach of Duty to Landlord form, or if the claim is not related to a breach section, other correspondence you have had with the landlord asking for compensation
  • receipts for your expenses and quotes for future expenses
  • the table you used to calculate your claim, if you used one, (see working out how much to claim, above)
  • any other evidence you may have to support your claim

step 3. make two copies

Make two copies of the filled in application form and all the evidence. You can copy, scan or take photos but make sure the copies are good enough that you can read everything clearly. You will have three sets in total – one for VCAT, one for the landlord and one for you.

step 4. keep copies for yourself

Make sure you keep a copy of the application form and all the evidence for yourself. Keep this safe, as you will need it at the hearing.

step 5. give your application to VCAT

Give these things to VCAT:

  • the application form, and
  • copies of all the evidence

If taking it in person, write down the date, time and name of the person you handed it to. Details of where to take it are on the form.

If sending it by post, keep your receipt and tracking number.

Or you can submit your application online.

step 6. give a copy to the landlord

The law requires you to give a copy of the application and evidence, to the landlord or agent.  This is called “service” and VCAT might ask you to prove it has been done.

TIP:  The safest way to prove service is to deliver the application and evidence in person, keeping a note of the date, time and name of the person you handed it to.

But if you can’t do it in person, you can:

  • send it by post.  We recommend registered post so you can prove they received it (keep your receipt and tracking number)
  • email it. Note: some agents do not check their emails very often or might have put something in your tenancy agreement saying they won’t accept emails, even though the law says you can send a VCAT application by email. So it’s a good idea to check that your email has been received

step 7. get the hearing details from VCAT

VCAT will send you a Notice of hearing to let you know when and where the hearing will be.

If you don’t hear from VCAT after a few days, give them a call to find out if they have set a hearing date.

step 8. get ready for VCAT

Find information and tips:

The Tribunal (VCAT)

‘A Day at the Bench’ (videos and handbook on how to apply and prepare for a VCAT hearing)

what happens next?

If VCAT agrees that the landlord should pay you compensation, they will make an ‘order’ which is a legally binding decision about the case.  The order will include how much compensation the landlord needs to pay you and may also include a date by which the landlord must pay.

This information is a guide only and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.

The information on this page relates to existing periodic tenancy agreements and short fixed-term tenancy agreements (for fixed term periods of less than 5 years). The information is current as of the date of publication, but may be subject to change with future amendments to the laws relating to rental properties. If you are unsure what laws apply to you, you should seek legal advice.

the law

Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (AustLII website)
Section 65 – vacant and clean
Section 67 – quiet enjoyment
Section 68 – repairs
Section 69 – water efficiency ratings
Section 70 – locks and keys
Section 208 – breach of duty notice
Section 209 – application for compensation or compliance order for breach of duty
Section 209AA – application for compensation of compliance order for breach of prescribed standard form tenancy agreement
Section 210 – application to VCAT for compensation on other grounds
Section 452 – general applications to VCAT
Section 39 – accrual of rent
Section 44 – how much notice of rent increase is required?
Section 49 – tenant’s goods cannot be taken for rent
Section 50 – applications and holding deposits
Section 52 – tenant’s liability for various utility charges
Section 90 – what if damage is caused during entry?
Section 216 – termination of tenancy agreement
Section 396 – what if goods or documents are disposed of in contravention of the RTA?
Section 397 – what if goods or documents are wrongfully retained?
Section 398 – what if goods or documents are damaged or lost?
Section 399 – what if goods have been sold in accordance with the RTA?

resources

full print version – compensation for tenants [pdf]

related pages

when the landlord breaches their duties
repairs when renting a home
when you want to leave
the tribunal (VCAT)

need more help?

contact us


Tenants Victoria | Published: May 2019 | Modified: June 2019
Tenants help line 03 9416 2577 | tuv.org.au
Tenants Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

Tenants Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.