Nicole Hicks has nowhere to live because her tenants won’t move out of her property and won’t pay rent.
“I’m close to $65,000 out of pocket,” Hicks told A Current Affair.
“People don’t believe that there’s nothing I can do, I can’t believe there’s nothing I can do.”
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Hicks took pity on a single mother on government welfare six years ago and leased out her home in suburban Melbourne.
“I had a choice whether I would give her a chance and the father was willing to put his name down, should she not pay rent,” Hicks said.
The tenant paid rent every week until he was emailed a notice to vacate in June last year.
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“She stopped paying rent the minute we notified her of the 60 days,” Hicks said.
It’s been nine months and Hicks hasn’t received a dime, can’t access the property and can’t kick the strangers living in the house out, despite the home being trashed and the tenant being nowhere to be found.
“I don’t know how much more I can take,” she said.
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After waiting three months for a hearing at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) Hicks’ case was finally heard and immediately thrown out because her real estate agent sent the notice to vacate via email and not registered post.
Hicks’ real estate agent then resigned and two agencies have since declined to take on her listing.
“I actually just don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do,” Hicks said.
Real Estate Institute of Victoria CEO Quentin Kilian said VCAT needs to take more of a common sense approach to hearings.
“One of the things that we have spoken to VCAT about and will continue to speak to them about is not to assume that property managers, whilst professionals in their field, are necessarily professionals in a court of law or a tribunal,” Kilian said.
“Flexibility and rigor needs to be mixed into the process.”
Changes to the tenancy laws in Victoria have not only coincided with a mass exodus of property managers in the state but created an imbalance.
“They (tenancy laws) certainly don’t favor rental providers as much as other parties,” Kilian said.
Hicks must now find a property manager to represent her at VCAT, go alone, or hire a lawyer to help, while all the while her tenants pull a disappearing act and her house gets trashed.