Back in 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services was rattled by the release of the Victorian Ombudsman’s Report into the management of maintenance claims against public housing tenants.


The report was damning and stated that the department was failing to live up to its commitment as a ‘social landlord’.


From this, the department set out to change its service culture and has begun to review its policies and procedures that impact tenants and Victorians on the waiting list.


Some of the main improvements relate to their guidelines around applying or re-applying for public housing.


Below is a snapshot of the department’s previous policies and how they have improved to treat tenants and waiting list applicants with more fairness and dignity.


If you have any questions about these changes, feel free to send us an email at or give us a call on 1800 015 510.




Process type of instruction

More tenant-focused

Property focused

Consider impact on clients when making a decision

Withholding housing where an applicant has a debt owing to the Director of Housing (e.g. rent arrears, maintenance or bond debt) unless certain conditions are met

Debt no longer a barrier to being housed

Different debt conditions according to priority status

Debt review process

People still required to repay debt older than 15 years

15 year debt not pursued

Tenant/previous tenant can only appeal a ‘Maintenance Claim Against a Tenant’ (MCAT) debt in cases where criminal activity and medical need are identified

Any debt can be appealed by tenants/previous tenants

No mention of NDIS

NDIS instruction to staff when offering housing

12 month restriction on applying to the waiting list on the basis of previous behaviour


No arson policy

Unable to lawfully exclude someone from getting housing based on arson – need to consider each case-by-case

Needed written permission to have a pet

All tenants can have pets but need to be compliant with local council by-laws

An applicant’s eligibility for public housing is reassessed if they need to transfer properties


An offer of housing was deemed refused if the applicant advised the department about a special accommodation requirement at the time of offer that they hadn’t previously notified them about (e.g. need for a ground floor property for disability access)

Offer is treated as cancelled, not refused and the applicant is re-assessed for eligibility within 28 days