Negotiating public housing debts

Last updated: 29 Mar 2021


When negotiating with the Director of Housing (DOH), it is important to:

  1. Research the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (Department) (formerly the Department of Health and Human Services) public housing policy and practice manuals about debt and compensation, in particular Department policy in relation to:
    1. liability for damage (see the Maintenance manual – tenant property damage operational guidelines);
    2. debt collection procedural obligations (see the Tenancy management manual – Vacated tenant accounts);
    3. goods left behind policies (see the Tenancy management manual – Abandoned properties and goods operational guidelines).
  2. Highlight these obligations if the DOH has not followed the policy manuals.
  3. Ask the DOH place all enforcement action on hold.
  4. Negotiate with the DOH to significantly reduce the amount of compensation to ensure that it reflects what the client is liable for. For compensation debts, this includes:
      • using Department policies to ensure a client is not being charged for damage they are not liable for under the policy;
      • if the DOH did not follow its policy and/or the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic) (RTA) in relation to goods left behind at the property, using this as part of negotiations to reduce the amount of compensation owed;
      • resisting any claim that goes beyond the actual loss (for example in a maintenance claim, the cost of painting a whole room for a mark on one wall);
      • ensuring the quotes, invoices and evidence of the landlord are not inflated, repetitious or fail to consider wear and tear; and/or
      • arguing that the client did not breach a duty under the RTA or an obligation under the rental agreement (ie denying responsibility for damage or breach of duty)
  5. Negotiate an affordable repayment plan for the client, (or a partial waiver plus a payment plan).
  6. Appeal the DOH decision if you believe it did not follow its own policy (see the Business practical manual – Housing appeals).

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