Family violence prevention

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There are plans to change WA’s tenancy and residential parks laws to support victims of family and domestic violence (FDV) and help them to leave abusive relationships.

These important proposed changes to the Residential Tenancies Act and the Residential Parks (Long-stay Tenants) Act are due to come into effect in late 2018.

The Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment (Family Violence) Bill 2018 was introduced into Parliament on 15 May 2018 and passed the Legislative Assembly (Lower House) on 27 June 2018. The next step is for it to be debated in the Legislative Council (Upper House) in August 2018. 

It comes after the Government announced in December 2017 that State Cabinet had approved the drafting of these amendments. See the Ministerial media statement "Tenancy law changes to support victims of domestic violence" or watch this video.

How are tenancy laws being changed?

Subject to Parliamentary approval, the key changes include:

  • a new process to enable victims of FDV to terminate a tenancy, legally, directly with a landlord / lessor or property manager by providing required evidence, such as a Family Violence Restraining Order or a form signed by a medical professional, for example a doctor or psychologist, or signed by another independent third party such as a police officer or social worker;
  • enabling FDV victims to remove a perpetrator from a tenancy agreement and stay in the rental home if they choose, through an application to the Magistrates Court;
  • ways to deal with disputes around property damage, unpaid rent and bond disbursement to ensure the FDV victim is not facing financial burden when leaving a tenancy;
  • allowing tenants affected by FDV to change locks, without a landlord’s permission, to prevent a perpetrator regaining access; and
  • a pathway for tenants who find themselves on a tenancy database to have their name removed from that blacklist if the reason for the listing was caused by FDV.

Why are the laws changing?

Incidents of family violence are increasing in Western Australia. In 2015-16, reports of family violence to WA Police exceeded 34,000. In 2016-17, there were more than 50,000 reported FDV incidents investigated by WA Police and more than 4,500 calls to the State’s domestic violence helplines.  WA is second to the NT for rates of family violence in Australia and in WA nearly 40% of homelessness is related to FDV.

It is hoped the planned law changes will remove tenancy-related barriers to leaving a violent relationship. The proposed amendments aim to give FDV victims better choices, including whether to stay in a rental home by excluding the perpetrator or moving to safer accommodation by removing themselves from the tenancy agreement.

Example: Currently a FDV victim leaving a rental property at short notice usually has to pay rent until a new tenant is found or the agreement expires. This financial burden of breaking lease often results in FDV victims, including children, either staying in the violent home or being homeless until the previous tenancy ends.

Other complaints or enquiries can relate to:

  • no current avenue through the courts to stay in a rental home but have the perpetrator taken off the tenancy agreement;
  • needing to change the locks or improve security for family violence reasons; or
  • damage to a rental property caused by an ex-partner resulting in the FDV victim owing compensation to the landlord and/or being listed on a tenancy database as an unsuitable tenant.

Who needs to know?

The tenancy law changes will be relevant to a lot of people including (but not limited to):

  • tenants, their relatives and friends;
  • landlords / lessors, real estate agents and property managers;
  • the law enforcement / legal sector (police, magistrates, lawyers, court registrars);
  • medical professionals such as doctors and psychologists;
  • social and community housing providers;
  • residential park operators;
  • tenant advocates;
  • shelter, refuge or homelessness service workers; and
  • financial counsellors.

Where can I get more information?

This page will be updated as the Bill progresses through Parliament.

Any materials developed as part of the campaign to communicate the changes to Western Australians will be linked to from this section of the Consumer Protection website.

Useful information 

 

 

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