Family and domestic violence and tenancy laws
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Tenancy reforms for renters affected by family and domestic violence started in April 2019.
These laws allow a tenant to end their tenancy with as little as 7 days’ notice, without any legal or financial penalty, if they or their dependant are in circumstances of family and domestic violence.
This video and the information after it gives an overview of the laws or you can refer to our specific information for Tenants, Landlords / property professionals, or Tenant Advocates and FDV community workers.
What laws changed?
The Residential Tenancies Act 1987 and the Residential Parks (Long-stay Tenants) Act 2006.
How have the tenancy laws changed?
The key changes include the following new options for renters experiencing FDV:
- a process to terminate a tenancy quickly and legally, directly with a landlord / lessor or property manager by providing a termination notice and evidence (see 'How to end a tenancy' below).
- the ability to remove an alleged perpetrator from a tenancy agreement and stay in the rental home if they choose, through an application to the Magistrates Court (using a Residential Tenancies Form 12);
- ways to deal with disputes around property damage, unpaid rent and bond disbursement to ease the financial burden when leaving a tenancy;
- to be able to change locks without a landlord’s permission, to prevent a perpetrator regaining access, as long as a copy of the keys are given to the landlord within seven (7) days;
- the right to improve security at the rental home at their own cost, for example installing CCTV, external lights window locks, security screens or shutters and pruning of shrubs and trees (once further regulations take effect in October 2019) ;
- a pathway to have their name removed from a tenancy database if the reason for the listing was caused by FDV (involves applying to courts).
How to end a tenancy in circumstances of family and domestic violence
To end a tenancy due to family and domestic violence, a tenant will need to give:
- the landlord or their agent a Notice of Termination for either:
- plus one of the following permitted forms of evidence a:
- Family or Domestic Violence Restraining Order (see Legal Aid website)
- family court injunction or an application for a family court injunction;
- copy of a prosecution notice or an indictment detailing a charge relating to family violence having been committed against you or your dependant; OR
- Consumer Protection Family violence report – Evidence form
A landlord will need to give each co-tenant a copy of the termination notice only, not the accompanying evidence.
A landlord cannot dispute whether FDV has occurred but can insist on the right termination notice and evidence.
Who can sign the Consumer Protection FDV Evidence Form
One of the following professionals / support workers are able to sign the evidence form:
- A doctor;
- A psychologist;
- A social worker;
- The person in charge of a women’s refuge; or
- A police officer
*From October 2019 the following professionals will also be able to sign the Consumer Protection evidence form:
- a child protection worker;
- a family support worker; or
- a person in charge of an Aboriginal health, welfare or legal organisation.
No penalty for ending tenancy early due to FDV
A tenant who ends their tenancy in circumstances of family and domestic violence will not be liable to pay any compensation or additional money for the early termination. For example, the tenant will not need to pay a ‘break lease’ fee, loss of rent, advertising and a re-letting fee or an occupation fee for abandoned goods.
Victim’s privacy and protection from discrimination
The following measures help protect the privacy of victims of family and domestic violence. They also ensure that a victim’s ability to secure a rental property in the future is not negatively impacted by a family and domestic violence termination:
- Evidence that a tenant or their dependant child is in circumstances of family and domestic violence only needs to be given to the landlord or their agent and not to any remaining co-tenant(s)
- A person is prohibited from using or disclosing information from a family and domestic violence termination notice or the attached evidence for any other purpose. For example, the information cannot be provided in a reference check by a property manager. Disclosure can only be made if permitted or compelled by law. A person in possession of these documents must store and dispose of them securely.
Rights of remaining co-tenants
After a tenant gives a family and domestic violence termination notice, a co-tenant who remains in the tenancy:
- can stay, even if they are the alleged perpetrator but may be asked to top up the bond in circumstances where part of the bond has been returned to a leaving tenant; or
- give 21 days’ notice and vacate the property.
Consumer Protection has developed a video to explain why it’s also important for the victim’s safety to keep perpetrators housed.
3-year statutory review
The new family and domestic violence laws will be reviewed within 3 years of commencement to ensure that they are working effectively. If you have any feedback you can email Consumer Protection’s Policy and Legislation area to review.
Where can I find out more?
Further information, training packages and factsheets can be found on the FDV tenancy law Resources and other supporting materials page.
Case studies shared by tenant advocates from a community legal centre are avaible on the Safe Tenancy WA page.
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