Landlords in Victoria seem to be at the losing end as the process for dealing with residential tenancy disputes remains sluggish, experts at the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) said.

There is a backlog of 4,000 rental cases lodged at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), while nearly a thousand disputes are still to be resolved through the Dispute Resolution Centre Victoria (DSCV) process, according to REIV.

Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) has referred more than 8,700 matters to VCAT, but only half have been finalised. REIV claims that more cases are being referred weekly to the tribunal than are being listed for hearing. 

REIV raised concerns earlier this year about the inadequate resources devoted to dealing with dispute cases. With the extension of the moratorium by another three months, the backlog will likely get much worse, said Gil King, CEO of REIV.

"Even when VCAT makes an order they are often not enforceable until after the end of the moratorium period, which is now a further three months away. This means that property owners are left in an untenable situation where they cannot protect their investment," he said.

King said it remains "unacceptable" that the system in place has led to thousands of cases and disputes yet to be solved.

Also read: Moratorium Not A Free Pass On Rents

Tenants taking advantage?

In a statement, REIV said some tenants refuse to communicate with landlords and agents to expedite a resolution.

"Some opportunistic people are taking advantage of this system overload by simply refusing to pay rent or negotiate resulting in massive arrears in rent being borne by the property owner with little likelihood of it being repaid," the statement said.

With this, REIV believes there is a need for the government to properly provide resources to VCAT and DSCV to help speed up the dispute resolution process. The group also calls for the government to make it mandatory for tenants to provide evidence of their COVID-19-related financial hardship.

Leah Calnan, president of REIV, said many tenants refuse to provide information or even communicate with their landlord or agent to expedite a speedy resolution.

"Many tenants are getting a free ride, knowing that they cannot be evicted. The system must be fair to all — owners and tenants. The bias in the system is plain to see with the balance of power clearly in favour of tenants knowing they cannot be evicted until the new year," she said.