COVID-19 Changes: Rent remains a high priority payment, so if you are struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic, check what special protections are in place in your State or Territory to limit evictions and rent increases, what your rights are if you have COVID-induced arrears, and what rent relief payments may be available to you.
For more information see COVID-19 changes: Rent
This page outlines the steps you can take if you’re struggling to afford rent. Rent is an important bill and you should seek help if you can’t pay. You may be eligible for rent assistance. In step two (see below), there’s an overview of some of the support available to people who receive Centrelink benefits.
You should tell your landlord if you’re struggling to pay rent. If you can’t come to an agreement with the landlord, call your nearest Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Service for free information and advice. Scroll down for more information about this.
At the bottom of this page we explain of your rights as a tenant. This tells you what you’re entitled to and what you can expect if you are breaking your lease, being evicted, or vacating the property.
If your problem still hasn’t been solved or you’re feeling overwhelmed, call us on 1800 007 007 to speak with one of our financial counsellors.
Steps to take if you’re struggling to pay your rent
Make it your highest priority payment
Rent should be your highest priority payment – it’s for your home! It should be the first payment you make on pay day. If you fall behind, keep paying what you can afford and return to normal payments and catch up on missed payments as soon as possible.
- Check whether you can get a utility relief grant to help pay your utility bills and free up money for your rent.
- Find out if you can get food, transport, phone or chemist vouchers from an emergency relief service near you; this will also help free up money for rent. You can find your closest service on the Ask Izzy website.
If you receive a Centrelink benefit
Check if you’re eligible for Rent Assistance
Rent Assistance payments are income top-ups to make rent more affordable for low-income earners.
Arrange to have your rent taken from your payment
You may be able to have your rent payments taken directly from your Centrelink payment through Centrepay. Your real estate agent needs to be registered with Centrepay.
Check if you’re eligible for a Centrelink advance payment
Centrelink advance payments are interest-free loans available to people on a Centrelink income. They are generally available twice every 12 months.
The advance can be up to $500 ($1000 for pensioners), which you repay by fixed deductions from your fortnightly Centrelink payment.
If you use a Centrelink advance payment to pay your overdue rent, you need to be able to afford both your current rent and the additional fortnightly repayments on the Centrelink advance. This means managing on a reduced income until the advanced amount is repaid.
Contact your landlord or rental agent
If you’re about to go into arrears, or are already in arrears, inform your landlord or rental agent and let them know you want to negotiate a repayment plan.
When you speak to them, explain your circumstances and ask for them to take your hardship into consideration. Explain how you will be able to pay the ongoing rent and also catch up on any missed rent payments.
It is best to make sure that your contact and negotiations with your landlord or rental agent are in writing so you have a record of what happened. For example, you might have a phone call first, but can confirm the conversation by email. Even if your landlord or rental agent rejects your offer, you can use these records as evidence that you tried to resolve the matter.
Stay in regular contact with your landlord or rental agent so they know what is happening.
LONG TERM FINANCIAL HARDSHIP
If your circumstances have changed for the worse and you can’t afford to pay any rent at all, contact one of our financial counsellors for advice on 1800 007 007 if you need help with financial hardship.
If you need to break your lease early, you have rights. See Know Your Rights as a Renter at the bottom of this page for more information.
Contact your local tenancy advice service
If you can’t come to an agreement with your landlord or rental agent, or if you have been served a notice to vacate, call your nearest Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Service for free information and advice.
They can give you advice about what to do in your circumstances. Your local tenancy service will also know exactly what is happening in your area and give you tips on how to negotiate with your landlord or rental agent and what to do if you cannot agree. They may be also able to help you find a grant or concession that you’re eligible for.
Tenancy Advice Services
New South Wales – Tenants Union of NSW
Northern Territory – Tenants’ Advice Service, Darwin Community Legal Service
Queensland – Tenants Queensland
South Australia – RentRight SA
Tasmania – Tenants’ Union of Tasmania
Victoria – Tenants’ Victoria
Western Australia – Tenancy WA
Speak to one of our financial counsellors
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some help to deal with your financial hardship, you can speak with one of our financial counsellors.
Financial counsellors aren’t judgmental about your circumstances – they’re here to offer you free, confidential and independent advice and assistance.
To speak to a financial counsellor you can:
- Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 – open Weekdays from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
- Use our live chat service by clicking the chat icon in the bottom right corner of your screen. Live chat is available 9:30am-4:30pm weekdays. If you send a message outside these hours a financial counsellor will get back to you.
- Make an appointment to see a financial counsellor in your local area – Find a local Financial Counsellor.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
AS A RENTER
You have rights concerning evictions and breaking the lease.
Breaking your lease
If you have a fixed-term lease and you want to move out of your rented home before the end of the lease, you may be able to legally break your lease agreement early for specified reasons. Some of these specified reasons include:
- because the landlord is in breach of the agreement
- because the premises have become unusable
- on a prescribed ‘extraordinary’ ground for example because you are in a situation of domestic violence
- because you would suffer undue financial hardship if the tenancy continued
If you want to end your tenancy agreement early without one of the legally specified reasons, you can consider:
- finding another tenant to take over the lease (you will need the landlord’s written consent)
- negotiating and reaching an agreement with the landlord
Even if you have a legally specified reason to end your lease agreement early, you may still need to give a minimum notice period, usually 14 days, and in some cases apply to your state/territory tenancy tribunal to terminate the agreement.
The law differs depending on where you live in Australia so it is really important to get free advice first, from your nearest Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Service (see list above), before you give notice or break your lease agreement.
You can also contact one of our financial counsellors for advice on 1800 007 007 if you need help with financial hardship.
If you don’t pay your rent, you may be evicted by the landlord.
The process for eviction varies slightly depending on which state or territory you live in, but generally the rent payment must be still unpaid after a specified period (usually 14 days); and the landlord must:
- send you a notice to ask you to either move out by a specified date and/or pay the arrears that you owe; and
- make an application to their local tribunal or court for an order that you vacate.
If you’re facing eviction, contact your nearest Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Service (listed above) immediately.
What happens if I don’t vacate?
If your landlord has been granted a possession order and you don’t vacate, the bailiff (Sheriff) can come around and forcibly remove you.