If Homes Victoria makes a maintenance claim against you it is important that you do not ignore it, even if you are no longer living in public housing – especially if you believe you are not responsible for what is being claimed, or that a possible exemption applies.
You do not need to agree to pay a maintenance claim just because one is made. If you do not agree you are responsible for the claim Homes Victoria needs to apply to VCAT (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal) for an order requiring you to pay. If that happens VCAT will schedule a hearing which you will be able to attend to give your side of the story and defend yourself against the claim.
The claims process
The operational guidelines set out the processes that must be followed if Homes Victoria wants to make a maintenance claim against you.
After investigating the cause of the damage at the property, and any possible exemptions, if Homes Victoria decides you are responsible for damage, it may send you a:
- Notice of repair
- Notice of cost of repairs
The notice should include specific details of what they think is wrong with the property, the works that have been, or will be carried out, to fix the damage, and the costs of fixing it.
If a ‘Notice of cost of repairs’ is sent it will include an ‘Acceptance of liability’ form. Do not sign this form if you do not think you are responsible for the damage or think the amount of the claim is not reasonable. You will have an opportunity to defend the claim or negotiate the costs during the claim process.
If you have not caused any damage to the property but have breached your duties relating to cleanliness and damage Homes Victoria may instead send a ‘Breach of duty’ notice [section 208]. If you receive this notice, see our page Renter breaches.
After sending you a notice about the claim, Homes Victoria must make reasonable attempts to contact you to arrange a meeting to negotiate the claim.
During this meeting, Homes Victoria will take into account factors such as the age of the damaged item and its condition and depreciation as well as any other relevant circumstances. These might include family violence, disabilities, and mental health conditions that affect you and members of your household, including children.
Before attending this meeting, we recommend you read our page Defending bond and compensation claims. Bond and compensation claims are similar to public housing maintenance claims and the information on this page may assist you with your negotiations.
You are also entitled to have your own representation at the negotiation meeting. If you want representation, you can contact us on our Social Housing Tenants number, 1800 068 860, or your local Tenancy Plus support provider.
Agreeing to the claim
If you agree you are liable for the claim, and agree with the amount being claimed, you have 2 options:
- Pay the amount in full
- Enter into a maintenance payment agreement to pay the amount off in weekly or fortnightly instalments
If you are experiencing financial hardship, we recommend you pay the amount off in instalments that you can afford. The minimum amount payable under a payment agreement is $5 a week or $10 a fortnight.
Disputing the claim
You do not need to agree to pay the claim just because Homes Victoria wants you to pay it.
If you agree you are responsible for some of the claim, but not all of it, you can try to negotiate a lesser amount.
If you do not agree you are responsible for any of the claim Homes Victoria is required to review its decision to make a claim against you.
After it has reviewed its decision, you will receive a letter saying whether or not the claim has been changed. If it has not been changed the negotiation process will continue.
If you still do not agree you are responsible for any of the claim Homes Victoria needs to apply to VCAT if it wants you to pay.
You can also appeal the review decision if you do not agree with the outcome. The HousingVic website has information on this.
Or you can make a complaint to the Victorian Ombudsman, who can help resolve complaints about maintenance and repairs in public housing.
If Homes Victoria applies to VCAT
If Homes Victoria applies to VCAT, it will schedule a hearing.
At the hearing Homes Victoria will need to prove its claim, including that you are responsible for the damage and that the amount being claimed is reasonable.
If you do not agree that you are responsible for the claim, or think the claim is not reasonable, you will get a chance to state your reasons and provide any evidence to support your reasons.
To prepare for the hearing, make notes outlining what you want to say and gather all your evidence. Being organised is the key to presenting a good case.
Make sure you take to the hearing a copy of the rental provider’s application, their evidence, your own evidence and your notes.
For more information on getting ready for a VCAT hearing, see our pages Defending bond and compensation claims and VCAT.