The RT A written law made by parliament. Also called an ‘Act of parliament’, ‘statute’ or legislation. at section 216 provides that:
Despite any Act or law to the contrary, a The agreement between a landlord and a tenant for the rental of a property. agreement does not terminate and must not be terminated except in accordance with Division 1 of Parts 6, 7 or 8.
Therefore, a tenancy agreement continues until it is ended in accordance with the The end of something. Contracts terminate when the parties have done what they agreed. A contract can also be terminated without being completed, for example if one party breaks the contract, or it is impossible to carry out. provisions of the RT Act. Any attempt to end a tenancy agreement that does not accord with the termination provisions (e.g. an illegal The lawful removal of a tenant from a property. If a tenant who has been lawfully told to leave refuses to leave, the owner can take possession back by asking a court to issue an order. The order can then be enforced by the Sheriff’s Office.) is of no effect.
To legally evict the tenant, the landlord must:
- serve a Legally binding or effective. Notice to Vacate (or have been served with a Notice of Intention to Vacateby the tenant);
- make an application to VCAT for a possession order;
- be granted a (1) Having control over property. Possession is not the same as ownership. For example, a bicycle you have borrowed from a friend is in your possession but you do not own it. (2) Having illegal drugs on your person or property. order by VCAT; and
- purchase a A document issued by a court directing an officer to take certain action. May be a warrant of apprehension, directing that a person be arrested and brought before a court; a warrant of commitment, directing that a person be arrested and imprisoned; a warrant of distress, directing that a person’s goods be seized to satisfy a debt; or a warrant of seizure and sale of real estate. of possession, to be executed by the police.
A landlord cannot legally evict a tenant without obtaining a possession order and a warrant of possession. A warrant of possession directs the police to evict the tenant from the property. Only the police may carry out the eviction; the landlord cannot evict the tenant. The procedures for applying for a possession order vary according to the type of Notice to Vacate the landlord has served. Parties should consult the relevant VCAT Rules.
Notice to Vacate: Form and serving of notices
Notice of Intention to Vacate (tenant)
The tenant’s Notice of Intention to Vacate must be in writing and signed by the tenant or their A person who acts for someone else. They can make decisions, carry out tasks or make agreements for the other person. For example, if you ask someone to bid for you at an auction they will be acting as your agent. (s 318). A notice of intention to vacate does not need to be in the prescribed form, but tenants may wish to use the Notice to Landlord of rented premises.
Notice to Vacate (landlord)
A Notice to Vacate must comply with the five Required by law to be done; a law that must be strictly complied with. Under mandatory reporting, people in particular jobs to tell a government agency if they know an offence is being committed – for example, doctors and teachers must report child abuse. Mandatory sentencing requires judges to give an automatic jail term for certain offences. conditions listed at section 319; these conditions require the notice to:
- be in the relevant prescribed form;
- be addressed to the tenant;
- be signed by the person giving the notice or their agent;
- specify the reason for the giving of the notice (except in the case of a notice for no specified reason); and
- specify the termination date.
An application for a possession order supported by a Notice to Vacate that fails to comply with the above five conditions is incapable of invoking VCAT’s The authority of a court or tribunal to hear matters brought before it, based on some factor such as area or law, amount of money claimed, or geographic area.. Such an application should be struck out at VCAT. The Notice to Vacate cannot be amended to confer jurisdiction upon VCAT.
Validity of Notices to Vacate
Any Notice to Vacateshould be checked carefully to ensure that it is valid.
Common mistakes on Notices to Vacate that render them Not valid; with no legal effect and not enforceable at law. For example a legal provision or document may be invalid because it is not in proper legal form. include:
- they are given by hand or sent by post (s 506); *
- less than the required amount of notice has been given (e.g. the landlord has not allowed two days for delivery, if it was sent by post, or has miscounted the days); **
- the landlord is not entitled to serve the notice (e.g. the landlord has served a Notice to Vacate for demolition but has not obtained the necessary permits, see ‘60-day Notice to Vacate’, above);
- the landlord has not specified the actual reason for the notice or has not provided sufficient details for the notice (s 319(d)); or
- the notice is not in the prescribed form.
* On 30 September 2016, section 506 of the RT Act was amended to add a specific provision to enable the Formal delivery of legal documents to a person to tell them there are court proceedings against them which they must defend, or to make sure a witness in a case knows when they have to go to court to give evidence. of notices in accordance with the Electronic Transactions (Victoria) Act 2000 (Vic) (‘ET Act’).
The implications of this A change made to a legal document or Act of parliament. are likely to be the subject of Court proceedings about a civil dispute (not a criminal case)., specifically the interpretation of section 8. Section 8 requires that it is reasonable to expect that the information is readily accessible and that the parties have both consented.
Section 3 of ET Act provides:
To agree to something being done, to approve an action or arrangement. See also informed consent. includes consent that can reasonably be inferred from the conduct of the person concerned, but does not include consent given subject to conditions unless the conditions are complied with.
If a tenancy agreement includes a term requiring or providing the option to consent to being served notices electronically, a tenant may wish to qualify their consent when signing the agreement. If a tenant later wishes to withdraw or amend the conditions of their consent, they should do so and seek legal advice (see Chapter 2.4: Legal services that can help).
Tenants should make their position clear as to whether they do or do not wish to be served notices electronically. This should be done in writing and a copy of the statement retained. Whether this is sufficient to defeat a Notice to Vacate served electronically against an explicit refusal, or later withdrawal, of consent A document that sets out what a person wants to happen to their money and other property after they die. likely be tested in An independent body that hears legal claims brought by parties and decides between them. Serious cases are heard by a judge and jury, or just a judge. Less-serious cases are heard by a magistrate..
** Australia Post provides priority registered post. This may substantially impact the presumed postal periods. It is best to look up the tracking number. The tenant should be given the full notice period from the day after the post could have been collected, with the valid termination date being the day after the notice period. Tenants should seek legal advice if they have doubts about the validity of their notice.
Reason for Notice to Vacate
The Notice to Vacate must state the reason for which it was given (s 319(d)). This requirement is not satisfied by merely quoting the Statutory rules made by parliament or by bodies the parliament delegates power to, for example a local council or a registration authority. See delegated legislation; statute.. Rather the notice must be completed with a sufficient degree of detail to enable the tenant to understand the facts being Claimed but not proved. For example, the police can allege in court that a car was stolen, but they then have to prove it with evidence. If you say a person did something illegal you are making an allegation. Unless you can back it up, you will not be able to win a court case about it. as a basis for terminating the tenancy (Smith v Director of Housing  VSC 46). An application for possession supported by a notice must specify the acts, facts, matters and circumstances, including the relevant dates being relied on in support of the application (r 8.08(1) VCAT Rules).
Serving Notices to Vacate
A Notice to Vacate must be given to the tenant personally or sent by registered post to the rented premises, unless VCAT orders otherwise (s 506(3)).
Amendments have been made to section 506 of the RT Act that allow documents to be served electronically under the ET Act if parties consent. In the prescribed tenancy agreement, clause 4A states that consent to be served a notice electronically cannot be inferred from the party’s use of electronic communications. Parties can withdraw their consent to electronic service at any time, but it must be in writing.
It is not possible to avoid being served a notice by not picking it up. If the landlord can produce Material presented to a court to prove or disprove a fact. It can include what witnesses say as well as documents and other objects. that the notice was properly sent, then the notice is regarded as having been served. By failing to pick-up a notice or delaying doing so, a tenant can deprive themselves of the benefit of a notice period.
It is difficult to disprove service or obtain evidence that is sufficient to override the deeming of service. A tenant may attempt to prove that the notice was not delivered at all or not delivered within time (usually within two days).
The issue of service was considered by the High Court in Fancourt v Mercantile Credits Ltd  HCA 25; proof to the contrary was held to consist of either proof of total non-delivery or proof of non-delivery in time. It was held insufficient to prove non-receipt.
Once a Notice to Vacate has been served, the landlord must apply for a possession order. VCAT does not have jurisdiction to order possession unless the landlord has made an application for a possession order.
Validity of applications
Where an application for a possession order is purported to be supported by a Notice to Vacate, it cannot be made before the Notice to Vacate has been given to the tenant (ss 322, 326).
Where a Notice to Vacate is served by registered post, the notice will usually be Treated by the law as if something is the case, even if that is not the reality. For example, children may be deemed to have the same home as their parents, whether they actually live there or not. Or a person may be deemed to have given their consent to something if they hear about it and do not object. Compare rebuttable. (taken) to be given two business days after it is posted. Therefore, if an application to VCAT is made at the same time as a Notice to Vacateis sent to the tenant, it is invalid. That date should be compared with the date that the application was made to VCAT.
If a landlord or A person or body, such as a bank, that lends money secured by a mortgage over the property of the borrower. applies to VCAT for a possession order, they must give the tenant a copy of their application within seven days.
Time to apply for a possession order
A landlord has 30 days after the termination date specified in the Notice to Vacate or the Notice of Intention to Vacate to apply to VCAT for a possession order (s 326). However, when a landlord is applying for possession on the basis of rent Money owed that is due on a certain date and is late being paid (overdue). or where they have served a notice under section 261 (where a fixed-term tenancy is coming to an end), they may use an alternative procedure for obtaining possession. If the alternative procedure is used, the tenant should contact Tenants Victoria for advice (see ‘Contacts’ at the end of this chapter).
Notice of The time and place at which a court or tribunal hears the parties argue their case and makes a decision.
After the landlord has applied for a possession order, the tenant will receive a Notice of Hearing from VCAT once a hearing date has been set. The hearing cannot be listed before the termination date specified on the Notice to Vacate or Notice of Intention to Vacate (s 329). VCAT sends out a Notice of Hearing to all the parties advising them of the date, time and place of the hearing. The tenant should pick up any mail as soon as possible. Parties may also receive notice of hearings via SMS. To check if a hearing has been listed, contact VCAT’s Residential Tenancies List (see ‘Contacts’ at the end of this chapter).
If the tenant cannot attend the hearing, they should inform VCAT and the other A person or organisation directly involved in a court case. Parties include the plaintiff or applicant, the defendant, and any third party added to the action, but not independent witnesses. as soon as possible, ask for an adjournment, and provide evidence to justify the adjournment. The tenant should not rely on a statement by the landlord or agent that they will withdraw or To postpone a court case, to move the hearing to another time or another day. Also referred to as ‘standing over’, as in ‘standing the matter over’ or ‘standing down’. If a case is adjourned indefinitely it can only be brought back if one of the parties applies to the court. This was formerly called adjournment sine die. the application or that the tenant does not have to attend the hearing. Practice Notices regarding adjournments can be found on VCAT’s website under PNRST 1.
Attending the hearing
A body set up to hear and decide disputes, usually with less formality and less strict rules of evidence than in a court proceeding. members (i.e. the people hearing and judging matters) conduct proceedings differently, but all are bound by the VCAT Act. VCAT:
- must act fairly (s 97);
- is bound by the rules of Rules that courts, other dispute settlement bodies and government officials must follow to ensure that decisions are fair to all parties. Examples include the requirement that decision-makers act fairly, without bias, and the right of all parties involved in a case to present their side of a dispute. See also administrative law. (s 98(1));
- is not bound by the rules of evidence (s 98(1)(b));
- may inform itself on any matter, as it sees fit (s 98(1)(c)).
VCAT must conduct each proceeding with as little formality and technicality, and determine each proceeding with as much speed, as the requirements of VCAT Act and the enabling enactment, and a proper Something of value, such as money, given by one person to another person as part of a contract. of the matters permit.
Representation of parties
Generally, unless the hearing is a possession order hearing (cl 67 sch 1 VCAT Act), or the other party is represented by a professional advocate, VCAT must give leave for a party to be represented by a professional advocate (s 62 VCAT Act). You do not need to seek leave if the other party is represented by, or is, a professional advocate. At the hearing, the tenant or the tenant’s representative should lead submissions about ‘formal’ matters (e.g. matters concerning the validity of the Notice to Vacate) and substantial issues (whether the landlord is entitled to give the notice).
Requests for written reasons for the decision
Parties to a hearing may at any time before or during hearing, make a request that VCAT provide written reasons for their decision By authority of, or in accordance with, or as directed by, some court order or legislation. section 117 of the VCAT Act. This must be done in the hearing and cannot be done retrospectively after the hearing. It is usually courteous to ask VCAT at the commencement of the proceedings.
Request to postpone the warrant
If VCAT makes a possession order in the landlord’s favour, the tenant can ask VCAT to exercise its Power to choose whether to do something or not. For example, a judge may have discretion to allow a party extra time to complete a document if it would be unfair to enforce the legal time limit. to also make an order postponing the time in which the landlord can request a warrant of possession to evict the tenant.
VCAT may order that issuing a warrant be postponed for up to 30 days, if satisfied that the tenant would suffer greater hardship (if the warrant were not postponed) than the landlord (or mortgagee) due to the postponement (s 352).
VCAT cannot order that a warrant be postponed when the application relates to an immediate Notice to Vacate, or when the order was made under the alternative procedure.
If the tenant argues that they will experience hardship if they are evicted, they need evidence to support their claim (e.g. letters from doctors or social workers, or evidence they have tried unsuccessfully to find suitable alternative accommodation).
SDA residents are entitled to seek a postponement of a warrant for up to 30 days. This applies to all possession orders under Part 12A (s 498ZZQ).
A possession order must include:
- the date by which the tenant must vacate the premises (at most, 30 days after the order is made);
- a directive that the tenant vacates the premises by this date;
- a directive to VCAT’s principal The officer in charge of the administrative section of a court, which is known as the registry. See also prothonotary. to issue a warrant of possession at the applicant’s request;
- a warning that if the tenant fails to comply with the above directive they may be forcibly evicted from the premises by a member of the police force (or ‘authorised person’) (s 333(1), (2)).
Where a possession order has been made and the tenant or their representative did not attend the hearing, the tenant may apply to VCAT for a review hearing. This should be done no later than 14 days after becoming aware of the order (s 120 VCAT Act). VCAT will consider whether the tenant had a reasonable excuse for not attending the original hearing when determining whether a review should be granted. Note the amendments made on 17 September 2014 to additional considerations and power in relation to an application for review. The tribunal may now consider both the reasonable excuse for non-attending, as well as whether or not there is a reasonable case to argue and the prejudice to the other party (s 120(4), (4A) VCAT Act).
In relation to eviction hearings, tenants who are likely to be evicted may still argue that a ‘reasonable case to argue’ includes making submissions in relation section 352 for a postponement of the warrant. This is not intended as an abuse of process but a legitimate right that may not have been observed or contested in the original hearing.
It is important that tenants apply for a review before they are evicted, as once the warrant of possession has been executed, the tenancy agreement is terminated and VCAT has no jurisdiction to reinstate the tenancy.
If a warrant is about to be executed, the tenant should immediately lodge the application for the review and notify the police in (1) A statement giving the details of a crime an accused person is claimed to have committed. (2) A personal property security. (3) A judge’s directions to a jury at the end of a case. of the execution of the warrants of this. Evidence indicating the review application has been made is important.
VCAT will generally assist to ensure a warrant is stayed and cannot be executed until the matter is reheard. However, it is important to communicate the urgency of the matter to both VCAT and police.
Parties may apply also if they can successfully argue that they are ‘a person in respect of whom an order is made’ (s 120). This may relevant for tenants who are sub-tenants, and possession orders have been made against head tenants (s 231), or who are rooming house residents who have been told that a possession order has been made against their rooming house operator (s 289A).
Warrant of possession
Once a possession order has been made, the landlord may apply to VCAT’s principal registrar for a warrant of possession. The landlord must apply within six months of the date the possession order was made (s 351). The warrant of possession is signed by the principal registrar and directed to the police. The warrant authorises the police to enter the rented premises and remove anybody occupying the premises (using force if necessary). The warrant does not allow the police to remove goods from the premises. A warrant must not be executed before 8 am, after 6 pm, or on a Sunday or public holiday (s 355(4)). The warrant is valid for a specified length of time after it is issued. This is usually 14 days, but VCAT can order that it remain valid for up to 30 days or be extended in certain circumstances (s 351(4)).
If contacted, VCAT The administrative section of a court that accepts documents filed with the court and also handles some public enquiries. can advise the tenant or tenant’s representative if and when a warrant has been requested and/or issued. If the warrant has been issued the tenant should contact their local police station to inform them of the date they will be leaving the premises and/or to seek a delay in its execution. While the police can legally act on a warrant on the day that they receive it, they may hold off until the tenant has moved out.
It is important that the tenant remove their goods from the premises before the locks are changed or take photos of any goods left behind. This minimises the risk of the tenant’s goods being lost or damaged.
If a warrant is executed before a tenant can move out, the landlord has obligations regarding the tenant’s goods (see ‘Abandoned goods’, below).