Debts to the Director of Housing

Last updated: 29 Mar 2021


Types of debts

Public housing renters in properties owned by the Director of Housing (DOH) may be subject to two types of debt:

(a) Rental arrears: For more information, see the Rental Arrears Operational Guidelines

(b) Maintenance debt: This covers debt caused by property damage, cleaning or goods being left behind. For more information, see the Maintenance Manual, particularly the Tenant Property Damage Operational Guidelines.

Reference should also be made to the Vacated Tenant Accounts Policy.

Impact of DOH debt

Unlike other debts such as those owed to utilities companies or credit providers, debts owed to the DOH are problematic because even if a client is judgement proof or the statute of limitations prevents any enforcement of the debt, it will still exist within the DOH’s internal accounting systems.

However, the DOH have now changed their policy in relation to outstanding debt. Any outstanding debt to the DOH will no longer impact future offers of housing.

Running a DOH debt matter

  1. Obtain all relevant information from the DOH;
  2. Get client instructions regarding the debt, including:
  • key dates in relation to the tenancy;
  • when the client became aware of the debt;
  • client circumstances at the time of the damage (for maintenance debt);
  • confirming instructions in relation to each item of damage, including whether the client caused the damage (for maintenance debt);
  • whether a Tribunal order has been made;
  • what evidence the client has regarding the state of the property when they moved in and when they moved out (including any photos/condition reports); and
  • the client’s current circumstances.
  1. Negotiate with the DOH – on the basis of the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (Department) (previously the Department of Health and Human Services) policy and the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic);
  2. Appeal the DOH decision if it hasn’t followed its own policy;
  3. If relevant, apply for a rehearing at the Tribunal and represent the client.

Note that if you are seeking to argue that the DOH should withdraw or amend aspects of its claims as a result of its policies around family violence and compensation claims, then you may need to apply for the review hearing to be adjourned to allow these negotiations to take place. If these negotiations will not be able to finalised until material is obtained by the lawyers (i.e. from police or the courts), a lengthy adjournment should be requested and arranged with the DOH prior to the Tribunal rehearing application proceeding.

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