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Complaints management for community housing

The Housing Registrar can investigate complaints about registered agencies from tenants and members of the public.

The Housing Registrar has powers to investigate complaints from tenants, prospective tenants and members of the public.

We can investigate complaints from tenants about ‘rental housing matters’ that have been unable to be resolved by a registered agency after 30 days. In determining whether to investigate a complaint, we will review the information provided by the complainant, and if necessary, seek further information from the registered agency about the unresolved rental housing matter.

We will not investigate complaints referrable to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) unless there is clear evidence of non-compliance with Performance Standards which indicate systemic issues.

We can also investigate complaints from prospective tenants and members of the public where there is evidence of non-compliance with Performance Standards.

Registered agencies are required to undergo annual compliance assessments against Performance Standards and we will take into account the complaints received by tenants and members of the public.

Registered agencies are required to have complaints policies and procedures in place that comply with the Housing Act 1983 (Vic) and Performance Standards. The regulatory system contains statutory requirements on registered agencies to have robust internal complaints management systems in place to enable the resolution of most complaints without the need for regulatory intervention.

The Housing Registrar encourages registered agencies to have organisational cultures that value complaints as continuous improvement opportunities and which strive to effectively manage and resolve complaints.

The Registrar has intervention powers available to remedy non-compliance with Performance Standards including giving instructions to the registered agency if the registered agency is unwilling or unable to resolve the non-compliance.

Information on how to lodge a complaint about a registered agency is contained further below.

What complaints can be accepted?

  • Complaints that are:

    • made by a tenant or prospective tenant of a registered agency
    • about a rental housing matter
    • not referrable to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997
    • not resolved after 30 days of being formally lodged with a registered agency
    • received from third parties (including members of the public) that may evidence compliance failings by a registered agency with the Housing Act or Performance Standards

    Examples of the types of cases the Registrar may investigate include allegations of:

    • systemic or serious business failures, including conflicts of interest
    • systemic or serious failures to implement policies and procedures or comply with legal obligations, including rent setting
    • a dysfunctional governing body
    • risks to the health and safety of prospective tenants and tenants
    • maintenance issues that indicate a systemic problem with the registered agency’s management of assets
    • tenancy issues that indicate a systemic failure to deliver fair, transparent and responsive housing assistance to tenants, residents and other clients
    • public housing issues
    • disputes with neighbours (including disputes between community housing tenants) unless there is evidence of systemic failings in the registered agency’s complaint system
    • allegations of antisocial or criminal behaviour by tenants which are matters for Victoria Police. The Registrar may consider this information when seeking to identify systemic failings but not investigate the criminal behaviour itself
    • one-off disputes about provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 referrable to VCAT which do not reveal systemic failings. These disputes may include:
      • one-off maintenance issues
      • evictions and ending a tenancy
      • bond and rent disputes
    • civil claims or disputes

    For these complaints, complainants will be directed to the relevant authority where appropriate.

    A list of potential alternative dispute resolution bodies is provided in the More information section below.

  • Anonymous complaints can be made to the Housing Registrar. However, if complainants are not willing to provide their name and address, in most cases the Housing Registrar will not be able to confirm whether the complainant is a tenant or a prospective tenant or how a registered agency has responded to the complaint.

    Accordingly, in most cases the Housing Registrar will only consider exercising its discretion to investigate anonymous complaints if it, at its discretion, characterises the anonymous complaint as evidencing failings by a registered agency to comply with the Housing Act or Performance Standards.

When we will investigate

All complaints referred to the Registrar are reviewed to determine if the complaint is accepted or rejected. If the complaint is accepted, we will review the complaint to determine what further action may be required, which in certain circumstances, may include an investigation or instructing the registered agency to do something.

When deciding whether to investigate or reject a complaint, the Housing Registrar will consider a range of matters including:

  • Is the complaint about a rental housing matter relating to a registered agency?
  • Has the complaint been made to the registered agency (and when) and what steps have been taken to resolve the complaint?
  • What is the compliance history of the registered agency and any similar complaints?
  • What are the circumstances surrounding the complaint including any impacts to tenants, the registered agency and the community?
  • Is there is a history of similar complaints about the registered agency?
  • Is there evidence of non-compliance with the Housing Act or Performance Standards?
  • Should the complaint be referred another part of Government, Court or Tribunal?
  • The complaints and investigations team will carry out investigations with the Registrar when required.

    When we investigate a complaint, we will obtain relevant information from the complainant, registered agency and any third parties.

    We may require registered agencies to produce relevant documents and provide responses to specific questions. In certain circumstances, we may inspect properties or offices, which may include taking statements and obtaining further evidence from tenants, staff and third parties.

    Following an investigation, we will determine based on the available evidence if further regulatory action is required. If no further regulatory action is required, we will close the complaint. Complainants will be advised of the status of their complaint following an investigation.

  • If systemic issues remain unresolved following a complaint investigation of information provided by third parties, the Registrar may appoint inspectors.

    The powers of inspectors include the ability to require certain persons to appear, answer questions and produce documents to ascertain whether the Performance Standards, among other things, have been complied with.

Possible complaint outcomes

Possible outcomes following an investigation of a complaint against a registered agency include:

1. No further action if the investigation did not identify:

  • non-compliance with the provisions of the Housing Act or Performance Standards
  • systemic issues with performance against Performance Standards

2. Increased monitoring of the registered agency in certain key areas identified as requiring continuous improvement. This includes amending a registered agency’s regulatory action plan (e.g. to recommend that registered agencies update relevant policies and procedures consistent with the Evidence Guidelines to ensure ongoing compliance with the Housing Act and Performance Standards).

3. The Registrar may direct the registered agency to remedy the matter complained of or to take other action to reduce the likelihood of future complaints.

4. The Registrar may exercise intervention powers under the Housing Act and Intervention Guidelines if serious non-compliance is identified which raises intervention triggers.

As reflected in the Guidelines, intervention by the Registrar is a matter of last resort and intervention triggers are generally resolved with registered agencies on a cooperative basis. If a registered agency is unwilling or unable to resolve the intervention trigger, the Registrar may provide instructions to the registered agency.

5. Referral to other regulators such as:

The registered agency may apply to VCAT for review of a direction by the Registrar.

Registered agency responsibilities

  • Under the Housing Act registered agencies must:

    • establish a complaints procedure accessible to all relevant stakeholders
    • take all reasonable steps to resolve a complaint within 30 days
    • maintain a register of complaints and make this register available for inspection by the Registrar
  • Complaints policy and procedures are expected to contain:

    • operating principles detailing the key values and principles underpinning a registered agency’s approach to its complaints management
    • a complaints handling process that meets Performance Standards
  • The Housing Registrar requires registered agencies to keep a register, as an electronic record, of all details and significant correspondence for every individual complaint handled by a registered agency.

    Registered agencies need to ensure that a complaints register has been created, captures relevant information, and is updated as any new complaint is received.

    The register is also a useful tool to identify whether a complaint is an isolated incident, or of a similar nature to other complaints, indicating a pattern or trend.

  • Performance Standard 1, 'Tenant and housing services', identifies the following indicators of good complaints and appeals handling practice:

    • information is readily available and promoted to tenants on complaints and appeals
    • the registered agency manages complaints and appeals promptly and fairly
    • the registered agency regularly monitors the effectiveness of the complaints and appeals system
  • The Housing Registrar requires that a registered agency nominate a key contact for complaints as its first point of contact for following up any complaint received.

Submit a complaint

To submit a complaint to the Housing Registrar for review please contact us by email or leave a voice message.

Email: housingregistrarcomplaints@dtf.vic.gov.au

Post: Housing Registrar, GPO Box 4379, Melbourne, Victoria 3001

Phone: +61 3 7005 8984

(Please leave a voicemail if you are unable to provide an email. This phone line is not attended but we check it on a regular basis and will be in contact).

If a complainant is represented by an advocate or support worker, we can deal directly with that representative if written authorisation is provided.

Alternative dispute resolution bodies

For complaints which are outside of the Registrar’s jurisdiction, these may in some cases be referred to one or more of the following organisations.

  • The Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria provides free dispute resolution services across Victoria for both community and civil disputes. It provides an informal, impartial, accessible dispute mediation service to the Victorian community.

    The disputing parties meet with 2 independent mediators. They discuss the issues, think about solutions and decide on an outcome that everyone agrees with.

    It deals with a range of issues including:

    • common neighbourhood disputes, such as issues concerning trees, fences, drainage, privacy, behaviour, pets and noise
    • issues and complaints relating to the use of common property in an owners’ corporation, such as disputes with neighbours and behavioural issues between members of an owners' corporation
    • tenancy related issues, such as disputes in a share house between tenants over outstanding bills, damage to the property or end of lease issues

    Phone: 1300 372 888

    Visit: Dispute Settlement of Victoria website

  • The Residential Tenancies Act

    See also the 'Courts and tribunals' section below.

    If a landlord or their agent commits an offence under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, they can be prosecuted in the Magistrates’ Court by Consumer Affairs Victoria and if they are convicted, they can be fined. Offences may include (but are not limited to):

    • no emergency number for urgent repairs that can be used outside business hours
    • an urgent repair that has not been responded to quickly
    • trying to evict tenants illegally (i.e. without a warrant carried out by the police)
    • holding onto or selling tenant goods because rent is owed
    • failing to lodge a tenant’s bond with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority within 10 business days of it being paid
    • trying to charge for things that landlords or agents are not entitled to charge for (e.g. a property inspection, a tenancy agreement, the first rent payment card or setting up and using direct debits)
    • entering a rental property without meeting the proper notice and entry requirements or without having a reasonable excuse
    • failing to obey an order from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal

    Consumer Affairs Victoria provides information about tenants’ rights and obligations, how to seek solutions to disputes, and in certain circumstances offers dispute services. Consumer Affairs Victoria will also undertake market rent reviews on request.

    The Co-op Registrar

    Co-operatives are administered under the Co-operatives National Law, applied in Victoria by the Co-operatives National Law Application Act 2013 (Co-op National Law). Consumer Affairs Victoria maintains a public register of Victorian co-operatives, authorises their registration and enforces the Co-operatives National Law in Victoria through the Coop Registrar.

    The Registrar can take action on any breaches of the Co-operatives National Law, however, the Registrar does not conciliate disputes between members, or between members and a co-op under its rules.

    Co-op national Law requires that co-operatives must have a grievance procedure in place for resolving disputes. A member may appoint any person to act on their behalf during the grievance procedure.

    Phone: 1300 558 181

    Visit: Consumer Affairs Victoria website

  • The Housing Appeals Office investigates complaints or requests for review about applications for housing under the Victorian Housing Register.

    Phone: 03 9096 7426

    Email: housingappeals@dhhs.vic.gov.au

    DFFH is also able to investigate complaints if the complaint is in relation to a service that they have contracted the registered agency to provide.

    Phone: 1300 884 706

    Visit: DFFH website

  • The NDIS Commission can take complaints from anyone about:

    • NDIS services or supports that were not provided in a safe and respectful way
    • NDIS services and supports that were not delivered to an appropriate standard
    • how an NDIS provider has managed a complaint about services or supports provided to an NDIS participant

    Phone: 1800 035 544

    Visit: NDIS Commission website

  • The ACNC is the national regulator of charities. They help charities understand and meet their obligations through information, advice and guidance. They help the public understand the work of the not-for-profit sector and provide a free searchable database of charities.

    The ACNC has the power to investigate a charity for a range of reasons, including if it is alleged that a charity:

    • has used funds or assets for non-charitable purposes, such as for the private benefit of its members, or these have been stolen
    • has not been accountable and transparent to its members (it may have failed to hold an annual general meeting or similar)
    • has been involved with fraud or criminal activity (the person raising the concern will be asked if they have contacted the police)
    • has failed to ensure that its responsible persons (committee or board members, or trustees) are suitable and not disqualified
    • has failed to ensure its responsible people have complied with their duty to act in good faith, with a reasonable degree of care and diligence, in the charity’s best interests and pursuing its purpose
    • has failed to ensure its responsible people have complied with the duty to disclose perceived or actual conflicts of interest and not to misuse their position or any information obtained in the performance of their duties

    Phone: 13 22 62

    Visit: ACNC website

  • The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission provides a free service for anyone to raise a concern or make a complaint about the quality of care or services provided to people receiving Australian Government funded aged care.

    This may be aged care services people are receiving for help in their home or in an aged care home, including:

    • residential aged care services, including permanent care and respite care
    • Home Care Packages delivered on a Consumer Directed Care basis
    • flexible care where a person is receiving 'residential care' or 'home care', including services provided through transition care, innovative care or multi-purpose services (MPS)
    • Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP)
    • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Programme

    Phone: 1800 951 822

    Visit: Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission website

  • The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory body that helps people with complaints regarding discrimination, sexual harassment, victimisation and racial or religious vilification.

    It provides a free dispute resolution service that aims to achieve results by mutual agreement. Individuals may complain to the Commission’s free dispute resolution service if they feel they have been discriminated against, sexually harassed, victimised or vilified.

    Phone: 1300 292 153

    Visit: Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission website

  • The Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner is the regulator and source of independent advice to the community and Victorian government about how the public sector collects, uses and shares information.

    Phone: 1300 006 842

    Visit: Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection website

  • IBAC accepts complaints about corruption in the Victorian public sector, which can include some registered agency’s that are funded by government.

    Phone: 1300 735 135

    Visit: IBAC website

  • Local councils may be able to assist with such issues as residential noise complaints (including barking dogs and loud parties) and complaints relating to property condition such as rubbish and dangerous goods.

  • For complaints involving criminal conduct, complainants should contact Victoria Police. This includes acts of alleged aggression, intimidation or violence involving tenants, their visitors and neighbours. In these circumstances, Victoria Police may be able to assist with Intervention Orders and Family Violence Safety Orders.

    Complainants should also contact the registered agency who may be able to assist with resolving the dispute and taking appropriate action where there are clear breaches of the provisions within the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. If Victoria Police takes a statement in relation to any reported event, such statements should be provided to the registered agency to assist in substantiating complaints.

  • Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)

    VCAT has jurisdiction over residential disputes between tenants and landlords, residents and owners of rooming houses, renters and the Director of Housing, and about specialist disability accommodation and supported residential services under the Residential Tenancies Act (1997).

    VCAT is not a court but it is able to make decisions that can be legally enforced. It is intended to be informal and cheap, and to resolve disputes quickly and fairly. It cannot hear disputes between tenants, co-tenants, residents, or disputes with neighbours.

    Phone: 1300 018 228

    Website: VCAT website

    Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, County Court of Victoria and Supreme Court of Victoria

    Certain civil and criminal matters will be heard in the court system. Complainants should seek legal advice when determining whether to take their complaint to a court or tribunal.

    Co-operatives

    A member or a co-op can make an application to the Magistrates' Court for an order that declares or enforces:

    • the rights or obligations of members of the co-operatives between themselves
    • the rights or obligations of the co-operative and any member between themselves

    The Co-op Registrar or a member of the co-operative can make an application to the Supreme Court if they believe the co-operative is conducting business in a way that is:

    • oppressive or unfairly prejudicial or discriminatory against a member
    • contrary to the interests of all the members

    The Supreme Court may make a range of orders, including:

    • making amendments to a co-operative's rules
    • requiring the co-operative or a person to do a specified thing
    • appointing an administrator for a co-operative
    • winding up a co-operative
  • VLA is an organisation that provides information, legal advice and education with a focus on the prevention and early resolution of legal problems. Depending on the complainant’s circumstances, VLA may be able to:

    • provide free legal advice – in person, by video conference or over the phone; and
    • provide legal representations in courts and tribunals.  

    Tenants must be eligible for a grant of legal assistance. Complainants requiring legal advice including representation in VCAT should contact VLA.

    Phone: 1300 792 387

    Visit: Victoria Legal Aid website

    Justice Connect

    Justice Connect provides pro bono legal services to people experiencing disadvantage and the community organisations that support them. It does so by matching organisations and individuals who are ineligible for legal aid and cannot afford a lawyer to lawyers and barristers willing to act on a pro bono basis.

    Phone: 03 8636 4400

    Visit: Justice Connect website

    Tenants Victoria

    Tenants Victoria provides information, advice and legal representation to promote and protect the rights of Victorians who rent their homes.

    Phone: 03 9416 2577

    Visit: Tenants Victoria website

Reviewed 28 February 2021

Housing Registrar

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