Safe Tenancy WA

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Animated explainer video 

Changes to Western Australia’s tenancy laws on 15 April 2019 will create new options for renters affected by family and domestic violence (FDV) to:

  • GO - exit a tenancy agreement without going to court and with as little as 7 days' notice (you can leave right away for safety but will need to pay rent until the end of the notice period) 
  • STAY - apply to court to have a perpetrator’s name removed from a lease 
  • Make a rental home safer through lock changes or security upgrades
  • Sort out disputes about property damage, unpaid rent or bonds
  • Seek removal from, or avoid being listed on, a tenancy database if the listing was because of FDV.

What laws are changing?

The Residential Tenancies Act 1987 and the Residential Parks (Long-stay Tenants) Act 2006.

The Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment (Family Violence) Bill 2018 was first introduced into Parliament on 15 May 2018 and passed the Legislative Assembly (Lower House) on 27 June 2018. On 18 October 2018, the Legislative Council (Upper House) referred the Bill to the Legislation Committee. The Committee’s Report into feasibility of, and policy behind, the Bill, was tabled on 22 November 2018. Further to debate in both Houses, amendments were agreed upon. The Bill was passed in February 2019 and is now known as the Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment (Family Violence) Act 2019.

The new legislation 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 Channel Ten news coverage (YouTube). 

How are tenancy laws being 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, such as a Family Violence Restraining Order or a Consumer Protection form signed by a medical professional, for example a doctor or psychologist, or signed by another independent third party such as a police officer, doctor, psychologist, social worker or person in charge of a refuge;
  • 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;
  • 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;
  • the right to improve security at the rental home at their own cost, for example installing CCTV or external lights;
  • a pathway to have their name removed from a tenancy database 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 has the worst rate of family violence in Australia or is only second to the NT, depending which statistical source you refer to. In WA nearly 40% of homelessness is said to be related to FDV.

It is hoped the law changes will remove tenancy-related barriers to ending a relationship with a violent person. The amendments aim to give renters experiencing FDV 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 survivor 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 are 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.

Case studies

Case studies have been shared by tenant advocates from a community legal centre.

MEGAN’S STORY

Megan and her partner James rented their home together and were both listed on the lease. After a series of violent life-threatening incidents Megan applied for a restraining order and sought support and advice from the local women’s refuge. Megan contacted Tenancy WA because she really wanted to stay in her home and have James removed from the lease. James was fighting the restraining order and wouldn’t reply to any requests about changing the lease into Megan’s name. In addition he was not paying any rent. Tenancy WA advised Megan about her options and supported her in negotiations with the landlord of the property. Due to Western Australia having no specific provisions in the Residential Tenancies Act to deal with family and domestic violence situations, there is no power for the Court to transfer a lease into one name.

SARAH'S STORY

Where can I find out more?

This page has been updated as the Bill progressed through Parliament and will continue to be a one-stop-shop.

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 

Family Violence Restraining Orders explained by Legal Aid WA

 

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