Dr Helen Holt, Commissioner for Residential TenanciesMeet the Commissioner

Dr Heather Holst is Victoria’s first Commissioner for Residential Tenancies.

Dr Holst was formally appointed to the role on 21 August 2018 and commenced on 10 September 2018.

With almost 30 years of experience working in the housing, tenancy and homelessness sectors, Dr Holst is a strong champion for the rights of Victorian renters and residents of rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks.

She has worked in Melbourne and regional Victoria in a wide range of roles with community housing organisations, including Tenants Victoria and Launch Housing, and with local councils. In these roles, Dr Holst secured funding for a range of housing projects, support programs and rough sleeping solutions, and appeared before the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

The Commissioner's role

The Commissioner for Residential Tenancies provides independent advice to the Victorian Government to inform the development of residential tenancy policy and legislative frameworks, programs and services.

A key focus of the role is promoting the rights of renters and residents of rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks, and supporting their participation in the private residential tenancy sector.

This is an important role, as a growing number of Victorians are renting, for different reasons and for different lengths of time.

The private rental sector has always catered for a broad range of renters. However, in the past a greater proportion were newly formed households, younger people and students for whom renting was commonly a relatively short-term transitional arrangement, which ended in a move to home ownership or to social housing.

Over time, an increasing number of families with children and older people on fixed incomes have become long-term renters for whom stability and security - and the opportunity to participate in their community over the longer term - are important to ensuring their health and well-being.

As the rental sector changes, the Commissioner will focus on renter and resident experiences in the private rental sector and be a strong champion for their rights.

The Commissioner for Residential Tenancies is located within the Department of Justice and Community Safety. The Commissioner is not connected to Consumer Affairs Victoria or agencies within the Department of Justice and Community Safety.

What the Commissioner can do

The Commissioner is the voice of renters and residents of rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks on emerging and systemic issues.

The role considers issues which have a significant impact, are ongoing, and that affect many renters and residents.

The Commissioner will:

  • listen to the experiences of renters and residents
  • consult widely with renters, residents, advocacy groups and interested stakeholders across the private rental sector
  • identify, explore and prioritise systemic and community-wide issues affecting renters and residents
  • advise and report to the Victorian Government on current and emerging issues, and
  • recommend changes to renting laws and the introduction of or improvements to programs and services to inform and support renters and residents.

What the Commissioner cannot do

The Commissioner for Residential Tenancies cannot provide direct support or legal advice to renters or residents of rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks.

This is because the Commissioner’s role is not individual advocacy, resolving disputes or dealing with complaints about government services. Other agencies and support services deal with these matters.

The Commissioner can provide information and refer you to these agencies and services.

Contact details for the Commissioner

Telephone
1300 029 783
Postal address
Commissioner for Residential Tenancies
PO Box 24259
111 Bourke Street
Melbourne
VIC
3001

Residential tenancy laws

The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 regulates residential tenancies in Victoria. It sets out the rights and responsibilities of renters and residents, and rental providers and owners of rented premises, rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks.

These laws are detailed in the renting section of the Consumer Affairs Victoria website (External link)

Residential tenancy law reforms

In September 2018, the Victorian Parliament passed the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018. When the Act commences, it will amend the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 and introduce more than 130 reforms to Victoria’s rental laws. The reforms are designed to increase protections for renters and residents while ensuring providers can still effectively manage their properties.

Details of the review that led to the reforms, along with a summary of each, is available at on the Engage Victoria website (External link)

Consumer Affairs Victoria will oversee implementation of the new laws.

Terminology changes

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 includes some new terminology for the Victorian rental sector. The term ‘tenant’ is being replaced by ‘renter’ and ‘landlord’ by ‘residential rental provider’.

A renter is the person to whom premises are let (or are to be let) under a residential rental agreement. A residential rental provider is the person who lets out the premises.

A residential rental agreement - known as a tenancy agreement - is an agreement between a renter and residential rental provider to rent premises for a fixed term or on a periodic basis.

Useful resources

Consumer Affairs Victoria

Provides information and advice to renters and residential rental providers on their rights and responsibilities under Victorian rental laws. It also receives complaints from renters about matters that arise during a tenancy.

If there is evidence that a residential rental provider has not complied with Victorian renting laws, or if a renter has been unable to resolve a renting dispute themselves, Consumer Affairs Victoria may provide voluntary dispute services.

Website: https://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/ (External link)
Phone: 1300 55 81 81

Tenants Victoria

Offers free and confidential advice, assistance and advocacy for renters and residents. Tenants Victoria does not give advice about disputes between co-tenants.

Website: https://www.tuv.org.au/ (External link)
Phone: 03 9416 2577

Funded community agencies

Through its Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program, Consumer Affairs Victoria funds community agencies to help financially disadvantaged renters and residents of rooming houses, caravan parks and residential parks dealing with issues arising under a private rental agreement, to avoid homelessness. The funded agencies provide services including information and referral to other services, negotiating with residential rental providers or real estate agents, and helping clients prepare for and attend hearings at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Website: https://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/TAAP (External link)
Phone: 1800 825 955

Victoria Legal Aid

Provides free legal information and education to all Victorians, with a focus on prevention and early resolution of legal problems. It provides legal services such as advice and representation for people who meet eligibility criteria, based on their financial situation, the nature and seriousness of their problem and their individual circumstances.

Website: https://www.legalaid.vic.gov.au/ (External link)
Phone: 1300 792 387

Seniors Information Victoria

Provides free information about housing options for older people.

Website: http://cotavic.org.au/info/siv/ (External link)
Phone: 1300 135 090

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal

Conducts hearings to resolve disputes between renters and residential rental providers, and between rooming house owners, caravan park owners and residential park owners and residents.

Website: https://www.vcat.vic.gov.au/ (External link)
Email: renting@vcat.vic.gov.au (External link)
Phone: 1300 018 221

Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria

The Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria provides free dispute resolution services for a range of matters, including disputes between renters or between residents.

Website: https://www.disputes.vic.gov.au/ (External link)
Email: dscv@justice.vic.gov.au (External link)
Phone: 1300 372 888

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission

Helps resolve complaints about discrimination including discrimination based on age, sexual harassment, victimisation and racial or religious vilification. It offers a free, fair and timely dispute resolution service, with the aim of achieving a mutual agreement.

The Commission also educates people about the rights and responsibilities contained in the Charter of Human Rights (but it does not deal with complaints about the Charter).

Website: https://www.humanrightscommission.vic.gov.au/ (External link)
Email:legal@veohrc.vic.gov.au (External link)
Phone: 1300 292 153