As of 28th February 2019, important new laws have come into place regarding protections for residential tenants who are victims of domestic violence.
In summary, the new legislation is as follows:
- Tenants who need to escape a partner perpetrating or threatening violence can immediately terminate their tenancy without penalty
- Any tenant or co-tenant who is not the offender is not liable for damage to the premises caused through the domestic violence offence in question
- Where a tenancy ends in circumstances of domestic violence, landlords and property managers may not list a tenant’s details on any residential tenancy database, or disclose details of the termination in a future reference check.
To give you a better understanding of the situation as it relates to property owners, below we’ll further discuss the new protections and processes that have been put in place.
WHAT IS THE MAIN CHANGE TO LEGISLATION?
As mentioned in the above summary, the primary new piece of legislation states that tenants who need to escape a partner perpetrating or threatening violence are able to terminate their tenancy immediately and without financial penalty.
This means that the tenant is permitted to terminate their lease without notice, and will not be liable for a lease break fee, loss of rent, re-letting and advertising fees or costs relating to abandoned goods.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR TERMINATING A TENANCY IN CIRCUMSTANCES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
To end their tenancy in this manner, tenants in circumstances of domestic violence need to provide their landlord or property manager with a domestic violence termination notice, with at least one of the following forms of evidence attached:
- Certificate of conviction for the domestic violence offence
- Family law injunction
- A Domestic Violence Order (this may be provisional, interim or final)
- A declaration by a medical practitioner, by way of a prescribed form completed after consulting with the tenant in a professional capacity.
The tenant will also need to provide each co-tenant with a domestic violence termination notice.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PROPERTY DAMAGES CAUSED BY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
The tenant who is a victim of domestic violence, and any co-tenant/s who are not the perpetrator, will not be held responsible for any damages caused to the property as the result of a domestic violence incident. The perpetrator bears the sole responsibility for any damages.
CAN A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE TERMINATION BE CHALLENGED?
If a landlord or co-tenant/s wish to challenge the validity of a domestic violence termination notice, they can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The Tribunal can examine whether the notice was properly given under the new laws.
WHAT ABOUT CO-TENANTS?
A co-tenant who is not the victim of the domestic violence circumstances in question can also apply to the Tribunal to end their tenancy.
Provided they are not the perpetrator of the violence, if a co-tenant decides to remain at the property, they are entitled to a two-week period in which they pay only their share of the rent. If a co-tenant is the perpetrator, they are required to pay the entirety of the remaining rent.
HOW IS A VICTIM’S PRIVACY PROTECTED AFTER A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE TERMINATION?
After termination of a lease in circumstances of domestic violence, there are a number of measures in place to ensure that the victim’s privacy is protected, and that their ability to secure another rental property in future is not affected.
These measures involve:
- Prohibiting landlords and property managers from listing the tenant in question on a tenancy database
- Prohibiting landlords and property managers from disclosing any information or evidence from a domestic violence termination – e.g. in a future reference check
- Requiring the tenant in question to provide evidence only to their landlord or property manager, and not to any remaining co-tenants.
These new laws are designed to ensure that all rental tenants are able to exercise their right to live safely without domestic violence.
If you require any further information about the new laws, contact your property manager or take a look at this Fair Trading fact sheet.