Maintaining family and domestic violence privacy, safeguarding security and avoiding scams - Landlords bulletin 31
30 May 2019
Family and domestic violence tenancy laws
Protecting tenant privacy during reference checks
Last month the family and domestic violence (FDV) provisions in our residential tenancy legislation came into effect in WA. While a wealth of information about the new laws exists, there can be a teething period as they come into practice. To help you navigate this new territory we’ll periodically explore topics that are raising questions for lessors.
Today we focus on the lessor’s obligation to maintain a tenant’s privacy when a lease ended due to FDV circumstances.
Scenario: “How did the tenancy end?”
You had a tenant leave a tenancy early due to family and domestic violence.
A few months later, another lessor is doing a background check on that former tenant contacts you to ask, “How did the tenancy end?”
Remember that this question can apply to:
- a tenant affected by FDV who terminated their interest in the lease;
- a perpetrator tenant whose interest in the lease was terminated by the Court; and/or,
- a co-tenant who elected to terminate their interest in the lease after you notified them of the affected tenant leaving on grounds of FDV.
What are your obligations in responding to this inquiry?
The new laws prohibit you from disclosing the “evidence of FDV” so your main priority is to maintain the privacy, security and dignity of the affected tenants as well as any perpetrators.
As well, the non-discrimination clause in the FDV laws means that a lessor cannot legally base their choice of tenant on the knowledge that their interest in a lease ended due to FDV – whether the prospective tenant was the victim or perpetrator.
Simply put, when asked how the tenancy ended you will need to choose your words carefully to ensure you do not disclose confidential information.
Note: if a perpetrator left the tenancy owing more than the bond in unpaid rent or damage, they can be listed on a tenancy database. That information would be available to anyone who searched that database.
Updated tenancy forms
Last month we provided a list of forms and publications that have been updated to include the FDV laws.
We’ve recently updated Form 22 – Notice of Termination from Tenant to Lessor to include an option for co-tenants opting to exit a tenancy after receiving notice that an affected tenant is leaving due to FDV circumstances.
We’ve also updated Form 19 – Notice of proposed entry to premises to include both scenarios in which you may need to enter the premises for inspection due to FDV circumstances.
Please ensure that you’ve downloaded and are using the updated versions of all forms.
Avoid dodgy security installers
In case you missed it, Consumer Protection and the WA Police Force cautioned home owners against using the services of unlicensed security installers because they may be unknowingly inviting criminals into their home. There are many unlicensed operators in the marketplace who are unqualified, have a criminal record or are persons of interest to Police.
Before choosing your installer, get multiple quotes from reputable operators who have attracted positive reviews and have a good track record. Try to verify any claims by asking to see previous work and speaking to past clients.
Tradespeople shouldn’t have any problem showing you their credentials or with you checking them out with the relevant licensing authority. If they do have a problem with this, it may be best to look elsewhere.
Check if someone is a valid licence holder by searching the current licence holders list on the WA Police Force website.
While it may be tempting to go with the cheapest option, in the end that decision may be extremely costly.
Inspector Garry Kosovich of the Licensing Enforcement Division warns, “If criminals are involved, they will have intimate knowledge of the systems they are installing and know how to disable them in order to commit an offence.”
Gas heaters safety alert correction
The national safety alert issued for open-flued gas heaters last month has been corrected as follows:
- Regency F38 and FG38 supplied by Fireplace Products Australia Pty Ltd – natural gas models only. The F38/FG38 was branded and supplied by Masport prior to 2006.
Consumers with the Regency i31, F38 or FG38 should contact Fireplace Products Australia on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1800 860 660. Masport can be contacted at 1300 554 155 in relation to pre-2006 F38 or FG38 models.
It's tax time! Don't get scammed at EOFY
WA consumers and businesses are being warned to be alert to tax scams which are usually prevalent in the months before and after the end of the financial year.
Stay informed about current ATO scam alerts.