West Heidelberg Community Legal Service (WHCLS) is a not-for-profit programme that provides a range of free legal services to the local community. WHCLS formally became part of Banyule Community Health on 1 July 2014.
First established in 1975 at the Olympic Village, our main service site is located within Banyule Community Health at
21 Alamein Road, West Heidelberg.
How we can help you?
West Heidelberg Community Legal Service (WHCLS) provides free legal services to City of Banyule residents who are current holders of a Health Care Card or Pension Card.
The areas of law in which WHCLS provides assistance:
- Tenancy rights & responsibilities (see also Tenancy Advice Service and Tenancy Project below)
- Infringements and fines where there are “special circumstances”
- Uninsured motor vehicle accidents
- Divorce applications only (where there are no children under 18 years of age.)(No family law property settlements).
- Victims of crime compensation applications
- Intervention Orders
- Minor criminal offences
- Where there is conflict of interest in regard to a new client, and or any related party, we will refer you to an appropriate service.
- Family Violence
What we do
- Legal advice/casework
- Community development work
- Community legal education
- Facilitate referrals
Tenancy Advice Service
We offer a Tenancy Advice Service on Thursdays - by appointment only. The Service assists clients who require assistance in tenancy law matters between tenant and landlord or resident and rooming house operator, including in relation to:
- Bond claims
- VCAT preparation and assistance
- Rent arrears, increases and receipts
- Lease breaking
Improving housing and health outcomes for tenants by understanding and addressing barriers to VCAT attendance.
- A 2 year project beginning March 2015 undertaken by West Heidelberg Community Legal Service (WHCLS) together with Banyule Community Health (BCH).
- Pairing WHCLS’s tenancy law expertise with BCH’s significant experience in social health service delivery to:
- Locate tenants who have failed to attend or are at risk of failing to attend a VCAT hearing;
- Understand the barriers to tenant attendance at VCAT hearings;
- Provide legal and health assistance to tenants who have failed to attend or are at risk of failing to attend a VCAT hearing;
- Reduce the risk of homelessness, housing and other stress as a result of failure to attend VCAT hearing;
- Advocate for reform to address barriers to tenant attendance at VCAT.
Please refer to our Project Flyer for more information, eligibility criteria and referral details.
Affected by family violence & living in rental housing?
Tenants' Union Family Violence Protection Tenancy Kit – this is a great resource to help preserve tenancies for people affected by family violence who choose to remain in their home.
The kit is available at: http://www.manula.com/manuals/tuv/family-violence-protection-tenancy-kit/1/en/topic/about-this-kit
Tenants Rights’ and Law Reform Project
This project combined a legal and community development approach to address tenancy issues in the local community. Our focus on tenants’ experiences in seeking non-urgent repairs to their home was informed by our legal work with clients and our involvement with local resident advocacy groups such as RG3081 and Housing Working Group. As WHCLS is situated within the Olympic Village public housing estate, this work focussed mostly on public housing residents and their experience with their landlord DHS (Housing Office). These experiences are documented in the report by Megan King (Tenancy Lawyer) ‘Repairing a Broken System: Hurdles for Victorian public housing tenants seeking repairs to their properties’. This project ended in June 2014, however WHCLS has continued its commitment to addressing the needs of tenants in the local community. Tenancy advice and casework remains a main area of legal work offered at our service
Other material linked with this project include:
• Media release
o ‘Public Housing Justice Hard to Find’ – Community Law Australia 22 Nov 2012
• Newspaper articles
o ‘Tenants eight year battle of the loo’ - Banyule & Nillumbik Weekly 22 Nov 2011
o ‘Bronchial sufferer housed in mould-ridden flat' - Sunday Age 15 July 2012
o 'Where overcrowding leaves children sick and depressed' – The Age 6 Dec 2012
• Overcrowding in the community (discussion paper)
• VCAT non-attendance (discussion paper)
• WHCLS Tenants Rights and Law Reform Project Evaluation - October 2014
• Tip sheet for future legal and community development collaborative projects (yet to be finalised)
For further information about the Tenants’ Rights Project please contact WHCLS on 9450 2002.
"Repairing a Broken System" - Public Housing Repairs Forum
WHCLS lawyer Megan King has completed a detailed investigation and report into the problems with public housing repairs.
This report can be downloaded here
The Non-urgent repairs process
Victorian law treats urgent and non-urgent repairs differently. For urgent repairs, the tenant can report the issue to landlord immediately by phone or email, and once notified, the landlord must take immediate action to rectify the problem. The process for tenants seeking non-urgent repairs under the Residential Tenancies Act, requires the following steps:
- Send ‘Notice to Landlord‘ to landlord giving them 14 days to do the repairs (attach photos if possible)
- If repairs not completed after 14 days of serving the notice, write to Consumer Affairs Victoria requesting a repairs inspection.
- Once Consumer Affairs report provided, if still no progress, have 60 days to apply to VCAT.
- VCAT hearing and order made.
If a tenant doesn’t put their request in writing they have no legal avenue to make the landlord do the repairs within with the 14 days prescribed in the Act.
For more info
If you are a tenant (private rental, public housing, social housing etc.) and want to know more about getting non-urgent repairs done to your home, please look at the following links:
• Tenants Union of Victoria
• Consumer Affairs Victoria
To download the ‘Notice to Landlord’ and ‘Request for repairs inspection or rent assessment’, go to:
• You can also pick up copies of the following forms from the WHCLS:
Facts Sheets on Repairs and other tenancy issues (produced by the TUV)
The Notice to Landlord Form
Request for repairs inspection or rent assessment
Experiencing other tenancy problems?
- Eviction notices
- Breaches of duty
- Rent Arrears
- Compensation claim
More information on these issues can be found on the Tenant’s Union website http://www.tuv.org.au/
If you need legal advice please call WHCLS on 9450 2002 to make an appointment to see a lawyer. Please note you will need to be a resident of Banyule and have a health care card to be eligible for our service.
La Trobe Student Union Legal Service
West Heidelberg Community Legal Service also provides the legal service at the La Trobe Student Union for University students.
For appointments or information, please call the La Trobe Student Union on (03) 9479 2314
Deakin University Legal Internship Program
WHCLS@BCH partners with Deakin University Law School to hosts a Legal Internship placement program for Deakin University law students. Twelve students per year (4 students per trimester) complete 15 placement days at WHCLS under the supervision of one of our senior lawyers. The law students gain insight into the many important areas of work done by a community law practice situated within a health service. We frequently receive requests from students who successfully complete the Legal Internship placement programme to continue on as part of the Volunteer Law Clerk Program.
Opportunities For Volunteers
If you have experience in the legal profession and would like to volunteer your time to help our community, we would like to hear from you.
Enquiries about the role can be made to Reception on 9450 2002.
West Heidelberg Community Legal Service @ Banyule Community Health – Volunteer Law Clerkships (VLC)
West Heidelberg Community Legal Service is part of the multidisciplinary team at Banyule Community Health.
We currently have vacancies in our successful Volunteer Law Clerk (VLC) programme due to a number of our Law Clerks securing new employment in diverse law related areas following on from their positive clerkship experience with us!
So we are looking for university law students to assist our Legal Service team with all aspects of our community law practice, including research, administration, reception & client support work.
In turn, we offer VLCs a structured and supervised law clerkship programme in which to experience all aspects of a dynamic law practice delivering legal assistance alongside other BCH support services to clients with multiple and complex needs.
We have Law Clerkships available for those who are able to commit to one day per week from 9.00am to 4.30pm and ideally for at least a twelve month period.
If you know anyone who fits the criteria above, please encourage them to email their resume and covering letter with their availability to our office at firstname.lastname@example.org
National Volunteers Week 2017
West Heidelberg Community Legal Service celebrating National Volunteers Week 2017
Family Violence Attorney General Visit
Victorians will have access to more family violence support services at their local community legal centres thanks to $1.3 million in funding from the Andrews Labor Government.
Attorney-General Martin Pakula visited the West Heidelberg Community Legal Service – one of 28 centres across Victoria to receive a Community Legal Centre (CLC) Family Violence Fund grant in October 2016.
WHCLS will use the grant for a family violence lawyer to work closely with the Berry Street North Family and Domestic Violence Service, providing outreach services to family violence victims in the Banyule area.
Yarning Up the Law Grant
In 2016 WHCLS@BCH was successful in receiving a three year grant commencing in 2017 from the Victorian Legal Services Board for our project entitled “Yarning up Law. This funding will be used to employ a lawyer and a cultural coordinator to improve Indigenous people’s access to justice services by providing a “wrap around” service to meet legal and health needs particularly in regard to child protection matters.
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