To identify what is an illegal charge, you first need to understand your tenancy rights and duties under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (RTA). There are Sections of the RTA that outline prohibited charges.
The RTA outlines that:
- Bond amounts should not exceed the equivalent of one month's rent (if weekly rent is less than AU$350).
- Landlords/agents must lodge bonds with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority (RTBA).
- Landlords/agents cannot demand both a bond and a guarantor. It must be one or the other.
- Application or holding deposits must be refunded if a tenancy agreement is not started (or allocated to rent if a tenancy agreement is made).
- Landlords/agents cannot demand more than one month's rent in advance (if weekly rent is less than AU$350)
- Tenants are only liable for utility charges where there is a separate meter to measure their usage.
- Tenants cannot be charged for the first issue of a rent payment card or for the establishment or use of direct debit facilities for rent payment.
Some student housing providers have been known to demand prohibited charges in the past. Please be aware that a housing facility can have an affiliation with an educational institution, which makes them exempt from the RTA.
What do I do if I have been illegally charged?
- Approach the management of your housing facility to discuss the reimbursement of illegally charged fees.
- Document this discussion by submitting a written request at the same time. Include copies of your receipts and application forms. If you do not have these to support your case, try to document what happened by recalling dates and amounts. You may be able to collect useful information about charges and fees from the housing facility's website.
- Get a representative of the facility to sign and date stamp your signed copy of the request as proof of receipt. Or, if necessary, send it by registered mail.
Breach of Duty Notice
A fact sheet on the topic of Breach of Duty Notices is available on the Tenants Union of Victoria (TUV) website.
This written request is known as a Breach of Duty Notice. You can use a standard Breach of Duty Notice form for this purpose. You can collect a form from the Ground Floor counter staff in the Baldwin Spencer Building.
Management/landlords/agents have 14 days to respond to a Breach of Duty Notice. If, after 14 days, you have not received a favorable response book a student housing appointment at Stop 1. We can advise you on the next steps to take.
Talk about this issue with other residents to get support for a change in the housing facility's practice. Our experience is that housing providers respond quietly and informally to those who assert their rights, to avoid the matter being heard at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).