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 In Lifestyle Property Management

Why has the number of VCAT claims increased year on year?

Between 2016 and 2017 the number of disputes brought to VCAT by tenants and residents went up by 27 per cent, and increased another 18 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

In Victoria, civil legal matters are heard and decided by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). Within VCAT, the Residential Tenancies Division is the main body for deciding legal disputes about tenancies.

VCAT has the ability to mediate between parties involved in a dispute. If the dispute cannot be resolved through mediation, then VCAT holds a hearing to impose orders on the involved parties to resolve the dispute.

Between 2016 and 2017 the number of disputes brought to VCAT by tenants and residents went up by 27 per cent, and increased another 18 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

The VCAT annual report from 2017-18 described the various types of claims landlords and tenants bring to the tribunal. A major one for both landlords and tenants were for claims on the bond. Tenants are also increasingly seeking compensation through VCAT.

So why are tenants and landlords increasingly seeking to resolve their disputes in legal settings? VCAT suggested in the 2016-17 annual report that reforms to ‘create better access for tenants and residents [to legal proceedings]’ may be one cause.

Marshall White property manager Jade Atkins agrees that more people have access to initiate legal proceedings now.

‘I have been to VCAT this year more times than ever before in my 10-year career,’ she says. ‘Tenants are more educated in their rights than ever before, and both owners’ and tenants’ expectations are increasing all the time across all facets of property management.’

Maintaining a positive relationship between landlords and tenants is paramount to create a happy living situation for the tenant and providing peace of mind to the owner.

It’s important to assess whether it’s necessary to go to VCAT, particularly over a minor issue that could be resolved by speaking to your property manager. VCAT can be a costly process in terms of time and money. In some cases a VCAT member may deem the application as frivolous and order the applicant to pay fees associated with the claim.

Marshall White is always willing to help with negotiations between tenants and landlords and discuss any concerns they may have. Maintaining a positive relationship between landlords and tenants is paramount to create a happy living situation for the tenant and providing peace of mind to the owner.

Jade emphasises the importance of communication between owners and tenants.

‘It is imperative for the property manager to be transparent with both parties and educate them on what is reasonable and within the Residential Tenancies Act. Communication is the key!’

All images sourced from Unsplash.

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