The COVID-19 pandemic has put an incredible strain on international students renting in Australia. Fortunately, as reported by SBS, international students facing eviction have had legal wins in Melbourne after proving their financial difficulties were a result of COVID-19. The win is thanks to the assistance of the Renters and Housing Union (RAHU), which was created in Victoria in May as a response to the pandemic.
As outlined by Eirene Tsolidis Noyce, RAHU’s secretary, the organisation has been helping hundreds of renters achieve rent reductions, rather than deferrals, to avoid debt and termination of their residencies.
In the case of one international student and single mother from Liverpool, England, living in Melbourne, COVID-19 meant she was unable to pay her rent. When rent negotiations with her landlord stalled, she took the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) and won. She is now able to stay in her home, and her debt has been waived, thanks to the support of RAHU.
A moratorium (i.e. a legal period of delay) on evictions has been extended to the end of March 2021 in Victoria, but there are warnings of an increase in evictions and rental stress when the moratorium lifts. In some cases, notices to vacate are still being issued even though they’re currently void, with the date set a day after the moratorium lifts.
For international students and temporary visa holders that are finding themselves in difficult situations regarding their rent and housing, the recommendation is to seek help.
Where can international students find help and learn about their legal rights?
In addition to the Renters and Housing Union, here are lots of free resources and organisations to help you understand your rental rights and to challenge landlords on your behalf. We outline them all here.