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

Complaints about rental providers and agents

If you think the rental provider (landlord) or real estate agent has acted illegally or unprofessionally, you should consider making an official complaint.

Breaches by rental providers

If the rental provider fails to carry out, or breach, their duties under Victoria’s rental laws, the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, you can give them a ‘notice for breach of duty’. This tells them they must:

  • Fix the problem and not commit the same, or similar, breach again, and/or
  • Pay you compensation for any loss you have suffered because of their breach

For detailed information on breaches by rental providers and how to give a notice for a breach of duty, see our website page Landlord breaches.

Breaches of duty by rental providers are also sometimes offences against the law, which can be reported to Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV), the state’s consumer regulator. See the next section of this page for more information and lists of offences in various circumstances.

Offences by rental providers and agents

If a rental provider, or their agent, commits an offence under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, you can report this to Consumer Affairs Victoria, which can issue an infringement notice requiring the payment of a fine.

Consumer Affairs Victoria also has the power to commence prosecutions in the Magistrates’ Court, which could result in bigger fines being ordered, or a criminal conviction.

We recommend you report offences to Consumer Affairs Victoria as soon as possible. This is because, depending on the offence, Consumer Affairs Victoria may only have 12 months from the date it was committed to begin prosecutions.

Listed below are some, but not all, offences under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. There are similar sections of the Act for residents of rooming houses and caravan parks.

Offences when letting a property

The following actions when a rental provider or agent is letting out a property are all offences:

  • Advertising a property without a fixed rent price [section 30F]
  • Engaging in rental bidding [section 30F]
  • Making false or misleading statements about the rent [section 30G]
  • Charging you to inspect a property [section 51]
  • Refusing to refund a holding deposit [section 50]
  • Asking you things the law says you cannot be asked about, such as your bond history, or asking for credit card or bank statements that contain your daily transactions [section 30C]
  • Inappropriately using your personal information, such as selling your contact details or using your details to send you promotional material [section 30B]
  • Not telling you things about the property before you rent it, such as if they intend to sell it [section 30D]
  • Refusing to rent to you because you have children [section 30]
  • Not telling you if they search renter databases as part of the application process and not telling you of the results of those searches [sections 439C and 439D]

Note that all the sections in brackets on this page, such as [section 30F], refer to sections in that Act. There are links to these sections under ‘Resources’ at the bottom of this page.

For more information about these offences see these pages on our website: Applying for a rental, Before you sign and Tenant databases or ‘blacklists’.

Rental agreements offences

The following actions in relation to rental agreements are all offences:

  • Being deceptive or misleading to get you to enter a rental agreement [Section 30E]
  • Creating a rental agreement that is not in Consumer Affairs Victoria’s standard form [section 26]
  • Including prohibited terms in a rental agreement, such requiring you to compensate the rental provider if something goes wrong [section 26A]
  • Not giving you a copy of the rental agreement before and after you sign [section 29]
  • Charging you a fee for making, continuing or renewing an agreement [section 51]

For more information see Rental agreements (leases) on our website.

Consumer Affairs Victoria standard form

Offences at the start of a tenancy

It is an offence if the rental provider or agent does not give you:

  • The Consumer Affairs Victoria’s renters guide [section 66]
  • A condition report [section 35]

It is also an offence if the property:

  • Does not meet minimum standards by your move-in date [section 65A]
  • Is not reasonably clean or vacant on your move-in date [section 65]

For more information see these pages on our website: Starting a tenancy, Condition reports and Minimum standards.

Rent money offences

Offences relating to rent payments include:

  • Asking you to pay too much rent in advance [sections 40 and 41]
  • Not giving you rent receipts [section 43]
  • Requiring you to pay rent in a way that results in you being charged extra fees [section 42]
  • Charging you to pay rent by direct debit or with a rent payment card [section 51]
  • Taking, or disposing of, any of your belongings because you owe unpaid rent [section 49]

For more information see our website page Starting a tenancy.

Bond money offences

Offences relating to bonds include:

  • Asking you to pay too much bond [section 31]
  • Not completing the bond lodgement form and giving it to you [section 405]
  • Not lodging your bond with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA) [section 406]
  • Asking you to sign a blank or incomplete bond claim form [section 411]
  • Asking you to pay a second bond for a second agreement [section 34]

For more information see our website pages Starting a tenancy and Bonds.

Offences during a tenancy

Offences during a tenancy include:

  • Not updating the rental provider’s or real estate agent’s contact details or details for urgent repairs, if they change [section 66]
  • Asking you to pay more for utilities such as water usage costs than the utility company would charge [section 56]
  • Coming into your home without giving you notice that meets the requirements of the law, such as being in writing, or having a reason for entering that is allowed under the law [section 91A]
  • Asking you to pay a fee to get consent for you to assign (transfer) your rental agreement to someone else so that they can move in [section 84]

For more information see our pages Utility charges, Privacy and entry and Lease transfers and subletting.

Renter database offences

Renter databases are run by private companies which collect information about tenants and make it available to landlords, real estate agents and renters, usually for a fee.

It is an offence for the rental provider or agent to:

  • List you on a database without giving you a copy of the information and an opportunity to object [section 439F]
  • Not remove listings that relate to family or personal violence, or are out of date [section 439G]
  • Not fix listings that are wrong, incomplete or ambiguous [section 439G]

Also see our website page Tenant databases or ‘blacklists’.

Other offences

Other actions by rental providers or real estate agents that are offences include:

  • Trying to illegally evict you, for example by not first giving you a notice to vacate or applying to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a possession order to take back the property [section 91P]
  • Giving you a notice to leave without reasonable grounds [section 368A] and not telling VCAT about the notice [section 373]
  • Making false or fraudulent statements about your rights [section 501]
  • Intimidating or threatening you to stop you exercising your rights [section 502]
  • Helping or encouraging someone else to commit an offence [section 504]
  • Giving false or misleading information to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority or Consumer Affairs Victoria [section 504]
  • Refusing to return personal documents left behind at the property [section 382]
  • Not obeying an order made by VCAT [section 480]

For more information see out pages Notice to vacate, Eviction and Goods left behind.

How to make a complaint

Consumer Affairs Victoria has an online ‘Make a complaint’ form you can complete if you want to make a complaint about the rental provider or agent. Alternatively, you can call them on 1300 55 81 81.

Note that Consumer Affairs Victoria will expect you to have attempted to solve the problem with the rental provider or agent before they will take any action.

Before contacting Consumer Affairs Victoria, get together contact details, and information about the offence and your rental agreement, including:

  • Your contact details
  • Name and contact details for the rental provider and/or agent
  • The date the offence occurred
  • Details of any rental agreements in place
  • Any payments made

Consumer Affairs Victoria compliance policy

Consumer Affairs Victoria’s general approach, when offences are committed, is to start by encouraging compliance with the law before issuing fines or taking legal action. For more information on its approach see its compliance policy.

Rental provider database

Consumer Affairs Victoria keeps a database, or register, that renters can search to see if a rental provider has had any orders made against them for breaching their duties, or if they have been convicted of an offence under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

If a rental provider is convicted of committing an offence under that Act, or VCAT has made a compliance or compensation order in response to a rental provider breaching their duties, Consumer Affairs Victoria will list the rental provider on the register, which is called the ‘rental non-compliance register’. Information remains there for 3 years.

For more information see our page Rental provider database.

Where else you can make a complaint

In addition to making a complaint with Consumer Affairs Victoria, you also may also want to make a complaint to these organisations:

  • Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, about harassment or discrimination: call 1300 292 153
  • Federal Privacy Commissioner, about misuse of confidential information: call 1300 363 992
  • Victoria Police about criminal acts or behaviour: call 000 for urgent matters and 131 444 for non-urgent matters

Related pages

Resources

Links to some, but not all, offences provisions under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 are below. There are similar sections of the Act for residents of rooming houses and caravan parks.

The law
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