Louise, pregnant and weeks away from the birth of her second child, was at her wit’s end. For nine months, she and her partner had pleaded with landlords and agents to get simple repairs performed in their new rental property.

The stress of an unsafe living situation

Louise was assured by her agent that a new oven and dishwasher would be installed to replace the failing and dangerous appliances at the property. However, when the young family moved in, they found additional problems: a leaking roof, broken stove, exposed wiring and windows sealed shut.

A Consumer Affairs inspection found 12 urgent and non-urgent repairs. Requests to address these were met with stonewalling and excuses.

helping vulnerable Victorian renters stay safe
A Consumer Affairs inspection listed 12 separate repairs.

“We’d tried following the advice from Consumer Affairs but nothing made the landlord budge,” Louise explains. “The landlords were lawyers themselves, so I was nervous about challenging them in case they knew some loophole. When they appeared at the property unannounced and started yelling at me – that’s when I really started to lose sleep.

“After months of trying to get any action from the landlord, I broke down, burst into tears. I felt like I was on the edge of having a heart attack. At times, I wanted to give up, it was all just getting too hard.”

Help for renters fighting exploitation

Louise eventually made her way to Anika Legal, a free service that helps vulnerable Victorian renters stay in safe homes – pairing people in need with volunteer law students who are supervised by a lawyer. Anika negotiated with Louise’s landlord and helped Louise prepare for her hearing at VCAT (the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal).

“It was exactly the service I needed – I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” she says. “I was so used to everyone else that I’d dealt with letting me down – agents, landlords, even law firms. Sam (the Anika law student) was just that one solid person I could completely count on when I needed him.”

After Sam took over her case, everything became easier. Louise says that the empathy showed for her situation by the Anika team was amazing.

helping vulnerable Victorian renters stay safe
Anika Legal evens the playing field between landlords and renters.

“I desperately didn’t want to go to VCAT, part of me just wanted it all to go away, I couldn’t deal with it. My trust had been shattered,” says Louise. “But I spoke to Sam the day before and he calmed me down and gave me the confidence to go. I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest until it was done, and with the baby coming I just needed these repairs sorted.”

At the hearing Louise’s landlord agreed to a binding consent order for all 12 repairs – which were finally completed the week before the birth of her second child.

“I felt like this really sad person that I wasn’t,” Louise says of her months-long battle with the landlord and real estate. “All these issues had just felt like a massive weighted blanket. It had just gone on for so long without any end in sight.

“To get the repairs completed, and within such a short time frame – I just started to feel like me again.”

Anika Legal: a world where everyone can access justice

More than 600,000 Australians live under the poverty line and can’t afford a lawyer, but aren’t eligible for traditional legal aid. Anika Legal offers legal assistance with rental matters to those who can’t access it elsewhere. In the current economic climate, demand for its services is rapidly increasing.

helping vulnerable Victorian renters stay safe
Anika provides legal assistance online or over the phone.

The Sisters of Charity Foundation provided Anika Legal with a grant to recruit, train and manage 20 new volunteer student paralegals. This will mean an additional 100 renters will be supported over the next year – to secure urgent repairs, avoid eviction and the subsequent risk of homelessness, and recover bond money they need to maintain financial stability.

Testimonials from renters helped by Anika Legal

“After months of getting nowhere with my landlord I was beginning to think I was overreacting to a number of faults in my house, namely heating that didn’t work. Contacting Anika to get some advice and legal support was super easy and super fast. I was able to have a chat on the phone to a staff member, voice my concerns and ask questions, which was followed up by timely legal advice. Suffice to say, my heating ended up getting fixed the following week without going to VCAT, and I was able to maintain a relationship with my agent and landlord which was something I was anxious about. It is amazing to have free support for tenants who have very little idea about their rights. Anika has filled a very large gap in the system and I couldn’t recommend them enough.”

– Gabrielle

“It was exactly what I needed. Having the law on your side makes you feel way more comfortable with dealing with these things, especially because in the past I have been told that I am just a young renter who doesn’t have any rights. I didn’t realise that as a renter I actually had some power!”

– Erica

About the Community Grants Program

Every year the Sisters of Charity Foundation provides grants of up to $15,000 to small not-for-profits across Australia, like Anika Legal, that use clever ways to fight poverty, loneliness, suffering and oppression. Learn more at Community Grants Program.

How We Help

Each year we’re able to make a difference to thousands of people across the country with funds generously donated by compassionate Australians. We support initiatives that focus on benefiting the disadvantaged, marginalised and socially isolated people in our community.

Find out more