Review of tenancy laws that deal with family and domestic violence
- Statutory Review will assess effectiveness of the special family and domestic violence provisions in tenancy laws
- Community consultation will determine if laws need fine-tuning
- Consultation begins with the 16 Days in WA campaign to end violence against women getting underway later this week
Special provisions in tenancy laws aimed at helping renters in situations of family and domestic violence (FDV) are now under review by the McGowan Government to determine if they need to be fine-tuned.
Consumer Protection will begin a community consultation campaign as part of a statutory review seeking feedback about the effectiveness of the FDV provisions in the existing laws while assessing the impact they have had on affected tenants and landlords.
Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act and the Residential Parks (Long-stay Tenants) Act came into effect in April 2019, allowing tenants fearing for their or their children's safety to end a tenancy agreement early without the need to go to court. This statutory review of the FDV provisions is separate to the wider review of the Residential Tenancy Act currently underway.
To break a lease early due to FDV, victim-survivors can fill out a form giving the landlord at least seven days' notice that they wish to end the tenancy early and provide a family violence report as evidence. This report can be signed off by a range of professionals, for example, a person in charge of a women's refuge, a doctor or a social worker.
There is also the option, in the case of a co-tenancy, for the victim-survivor to apply to the court to have the perpetrator's name removed from the lease so that the victim-survivor can remain in their rental home. Other reforms included the ability to: change locks or upgrade security; prevent or remove tenancy database entries; and resolve any issues related to damage, unpaid rent or bonds.
The review will focus on whether the laws are working as intended to support affected renters and will also examine how landlords are impacted in areas such as recovering debts owed by tenants and making claims on insurance.
The consultation coincides with the annual 16 Days in WA – Stop Violence Against Women campaign beginning later this week. It takes place from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to 10 December (Human Rights Day).
Now in its sixth year, 16 Days in WA draws inspiration from the global movement for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence to drive a change in culture, behaviour and attitudes that lead to violence against women and their children.
More information on the current laws is available at www.safetenancy.wa.gov.au.
Comments attributed to Commerce Minister Roger Cook:
"The laws have been in force for three years now so we are keen to make sure they are working as intended for victim-survivors, as well as getting landlords' feedback on these provisions, to determine if any fine-tuning is necessary.
"This wide community consultation now underway may also reveal problems that we may not yet know about and will take into consideration the impact of COVID-19 and the ability of victim-survivors to find alternative accommodation with the current extremely low rental vacancy rate in WA.
"Family and domestic violence is an extremely serious issue in our community and we need to ensure that we have the right laws in place that will support victim-survivors and keep them and their children safe."
Comments attributed to Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Simone McGurk:
"Last year more than 24,000 Western Australians sought assistance from specialist homelessness services, with 41 per cent needing these services because they were experiencing family and domestic violence.
"I encourage people to give us feedback on whether the laws have been effective or give us suggestions on how they could be improved, from the point-of-view of tenants, landlords, tenant advocates, support workers, real estate industry and community groups. Your opinions and comments will be valuable in allowing us to assess if changes are necessary and, if so, to what extent."
Minister's Office: 6552 6500