CHIA Vic established a coronavirus sector group to highlight key issues and assist in the development of strategies and resources, with a password-protected members’ section of the CHIA Vic website developed to house a COVID-19 documents library. Resources developed for the sector and made available via this library included:
- Coronavirus Checklist for Community Housing Organisations
- Sample maintenance procedures
- Sample letters to contractors
- Risk Mitigation Actions for Rooming Houses
- Rooming House Operations During Coronavirus Guidelines
- Guidelines for Disclosing Private Information when Managing Coronavirus Risks
- Tenancy Services Information During Coronavirus Pandemic
- Useful Paragraphs for Rent Arrears Letters During Coronavirus Pandemic
- Sample Hardship Policy and Application Form
- Overview of Coronavirus RTA Changes and Practice Notes.
Throughout the pandemic, CHIA Vic has worked closely with DHHS to have input and seek clarity on the latest developments and on the sector’s outstanding issues with developments fed back to members via meetings held over Zoom and other communication channels.
The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) is the most significant piece of legislation governing tenancy management. In 2019/20, CHIA Vic was involved in discussions with Consumer Affairs Victoria on the optimum way to communicate changes to the Act, most of which were to come into force on July 1, 2020, as a result of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018.
CHIA Vic kept members aware of the impending changes, providing training and email updates. However, COVID-19 led to a revised timetable for the changes, and the introduction of the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 in April. This act gave effect to the National Cabinet commitment to a temporary eviction moratorium and made further broad ranging changes to tenancy law in response to the pandemic.
The changes included a temporary ban on rent increases and on issuing notices to vacate, as well as limiting the grounds a tenancy can be ended and pushing back the reforms to the RTA that had been planned for implementation from 1 July 2020.
CHIA Vic kept members abreast of these changes and their implications. This included holding a briefing session to help the sector understand and adapt to these changes, followed by Q&A sessions in sector groups. To help members adjust their practice, we also developed a detailed guidance document with practice notes outlining the changes needed in all the relevant areas of tenancy management.
CHIA Vic continues to support members to operate under these reforms while advocating for changes to tenancy law to reflect the community housing operating model.
Best practice rent management
During the year, CHIA Vic worked with members to establish leading practice in rent management. The project began with a member forum to enable organisations to assess their rent practices against industry standards and identify issues that require further investigation or interpretation.
CHIA Vic’s RTA and VCAT expert Mark Smoljo led the project, which resulted in the creation of Rent Setting Policy templates and other resources for member organisations to use as a guide when producing their own rent setting policies.
CHIA Vic makes a splash in Darwin
CHIA Vic had a strong presence at the 2019 AHURI conference in Darwin, with Projects and Policy Officer Jess Pomeroy giving two presentations; one on our Innovative Energy Efficiency Financing Models project and the other for our Social Outcomes Framework.
Our member organisations are continuing to look at ways they can adopt the framework, and avenues for aggregating the data on tenant outcomes. Several organisations have undertaking social outcomes surveys as part of their tenant surveys this year.View Presentation
CHIA Vic has been finalising case studies of solar and energy efficiency upgrades funded by the Victorian Property Fund. The case studies outline the challenges and learnings from this $2.7M program of solar and other upgrades to community housing with the aim of assisting other organisations who are keen to introduce energy efficiencies into their properties.