Rent Arrears

Rent arrears can be stressful. This short guide explains what they are, what to do if you think you won’t be able to pay your rent, and where you can access help.

What is rent arrears?

If you don’t pay your rent on or before the date that it’s due, you will enter rent arrears. This simply means that your rent is overdue.

How can I avoid getting into rent arrears?

When you moved into your public housing property, you will have filled in a rental rebate form. When you complete this form, your housing office will charge you rent that is calculated based on your personal circumstances. If your personal circumstances change after this the amount of rent you need to pay may also change. This may include changes in who is living with you, your gross weekly income, and your savings and assets. If these circumstances do change, contact your local housing office and let them know. You will then need to complete a new rental rebate form.

What is the Rent Deduction Scheme?

The Rent Deduction Scheme is a way to pay your public housing rent directly from your fortnightly Centrelink payments. It may help to take the stress out of paying your rent by doing it automatically for you. To apply for the Rent Deduction Scheme, click here.

My rent it due soon and I won’t be able to pay it, what should I do?

If you think that you may not be able to pay your rent by the day it’s due, the best thing you can do is contact your local housing office and let them know. Their job is to support you, and they will discuss a payment plan with you that will help you get back on track with your rent payments. If you would like further support, you can contact a Tenancy Plus provider. Tenancy Plus is a program that supports tenants to stay in their home. To read more, click here.

I missed a payment, and I’m now in rent arrears, what should I do?

If you’ve missed a payment, and you’re now in rent arrears, the best thing you can do is contact your local housing office. They can discuss a payment plan with you to help with your rent payments. When you set up a payment plan, you will be able to pay an amount of your rent owing on top of your regular rent payments. The amount that you pay will be discussed with you and will depend on your personal circumstances.

If you’ve missed a payment and don’t contact your local housing office, they will send you a letter asking you to contact them within a week of receiving it. Your housing officer will contact you if you do not.  If you still do not contact your housing officer about your rent arrears, they may decide to take the dispute to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, or VCAT. This is an independent body that will hear your dispute, and then make a legally binding decision.

What happens in a VCAT hearing?

In a VCAT hearing, the tribunal will give both you and your housing officer an opportunity to speak. You will be asked to explain your situation, in your own words. The tribunal will then make a legally binding decision. You can read more about VCAT hearings here.

You should always go to your VCAT hearing. If you don’t, VCAT may issue an order for possession, meaning that you will legally have to vacate your property. If you would like legal support with your VCAT hearing, you can find a list of available resources here.

Accessing Support

We provide free and confidential advice when you need it. If you have any queries or concerns about rent arrears or any other housing related issues, please don’t hesitate to contact us by phoning 1800 015 510 or emailing

If you have questions specific to VCAT or other legal issues, you can contact Justice Connect, Tenants Victoria, or your local Community Legal Centre.

If you would like mental health support, you can access a number of online or telephone services here.

Financial counsellors are trained professionals whose job it is to help you through financial difficulties. If you think financial counselling may help you, you can find a list of financial counselling services here.