New tenancy reforms for victims of domestic violence in NSW commenced on February 28, 2019. Designed to improve protection for tenants and/or their children living in a domestic violence situation, the new law allows the tenant to terminate their tenancy immediately, without penalty, if they or one or more dependent children are experiencing domestic violence in the property. Here’s what you need to know as a property manager…
Why has the new law been introduced?
The new tenancy domestic violence law is part of a number of tenancy amendments implemented after the recent statutory review of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (the Act). The review followed a period of extensive public and key stakeholder engagement.
It is in force to improve and strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence living in a rental property. Click here for a copy of the legislative amendment.
A common question asked of victims of domestic violence is, “Why do you stay?” While the answer to that question will vary from one person to the next, financial issues are often a contributing factor. By making it easier for the victim to vacate a shared tenancy and without penalty, it is thought that this will empower more victims to leave an abusive situation.
What do the changes include?
- The ability to terminate the tenancy without penalty. In other words, the victim is not liable to pay a break fee, loss of rent, advertising, a re-letting fee or an occupation fee for abandoned goods.
- A ban on being blacklisted. In other words, the victim’s ability to secure a rental in the future will not be compromised in any way.
- The perpetrator of the domestic violence will be held accountable for any damage to the rental property that was incurred during a domestic violence offence.
- The victim’s privacy will be protected.
How does a victim of domestic violence terminate their tenancy?
In order to terminate the tenancy, the victim must provide you with a Domestic Violence Termination Notice. Click here for a sample template that you can copy and paste for this purpose. The completed form, together with one attachment as listed below, must then be given to the landlord.
The tenant must attach ONE of the following to the Domestic Violence Termination Notice as evidence:
- Certificate of conviction
- Family law injunction
- Domestic Violence Order (provisional, interim or final), also known as an AVO (Apprehended Violence Order)
- Medical practitioner declaration. Click here for the declaration form to be completed.
The tenant is also required to give each co-tenant a Domestic Violence Termination Notice.
What if the landlord or a co-tenant disputes the validity of the Domestic Violence Termination Notice?
They must take their dispute to Tribunal. Tribunal can only examine whether or not the termination notice was properly executed under these new tenancy laws. A landlord or co-tenant can’t dispute the evidence.
What rights do the remaining co-tenants have?
Any co-tenant (unless it is the perpetrator of the domestic violence*) that remains in the property after the victim of domestic violence leaves is entitled to a 2-week period to pay their share of the rent only (in other words, they do not have to pay the victim’s share). They are entitled to apply to Tribunal to terminate their tenancy in the usual manner.
*A co-tenant who is the perpetrator of the domestic violence must pay the rent in full.
This new law and related provisions will be up for statutory review within 3 years to measure its effectiveness.
* If you suspect that someone is in a domestic violence situation, or you are in one yourself, please call 1800 737 732 or visit www.whiteribbon.org.au