International Students approaches Legal Services for Rent payment

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By Rashi Jain-

A huge number of international students in Melbourne, Sydney, and other cities of Australia are seeking legal assistance regarding tenancy issues and the number is increasing at a very high rate as they are reaching towards breaking point during Melbourne’s stage 4 lockdown.

Student Legal Services across the country reported that international students are still forced to pay rent on the properties in which they haven’t even lived since the lockdown in March.

Among other issues that are faced by international students in Australia during crisis times, accommodation is one of the biggest. Majority of the international students to afford accommodation rely on part-time jobs. Due to the lockdown and pandemic effects, students have either left their job to go to their motherland or are not able to go to the workplace due to lockdown. Students also mainly rely on the food industry for part-time jobs and the industry which is most affected by this pandemic is food industry creating unemployment in that sector

According to James Tresise, Senior community lawyer with Student Legal Service based at RMIT University, “RMIT alone has reported a 105 percent increase in legal assistance between April and June this year, with a huge leap – 165 percent more – in queries related to credit and debt. We’ve had an absolutely ridiculous amount of students get in touch, Some students are stuck overseas and are reaching out because they have been paying rent since March and then contact their landlord about breaking the lease Many were being told they are unable to do so and threatened with legal action.”

Student Legal Service Lawyer Isabelle Butler, University of Melbourne also mentioned that many students who have fled back to their home countries are facing legal threats of being taken to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal by their landlords. VCAT is a city courthouse in Melbourne, Australia. Ms. Butler said, “international students were often concerned with future consequences, as agents usually offered rent deferrals and not reductions meaning large rental debts were being accrued.”

In a report, Gohar Hovhannisyan, vice-president of The European Students’ Union mentioned that “It’s a terrible situation. Our national student unions are trying to reach out to their local authorities, to institutions, and to landlords but this doesn’t necessarily help. It’s destroying students’ whole experience … It creates a lot of negative feelings and this will be very, very hard to recover from. The international dimension of education will find it hard to recover. The only thing now that can be done to support students is for the government to call upon the landlords and accommodation providers to be more supportive.”

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