Update to family domestic violence regulations - Real estate industry bulletin 211
29 November 2019
In this issue:
Update to family domestic violence regulations.
Update to family domestic violence regulations
From 12 October 2019 the regulations to the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (RTA) prescribed additional classes of persons who can make a report of family violence to support tenants experiencing family and domestic violence (FDV).
Family violence refers to:
- violence or a threat of violence, by a person towards a family member of the person; or
- any other behaviour by the person that coerces or controls the family member or causes the member to be fearful.
It can be experienced by people of all classes, religions, ethnicity, ages, abilities and sexual preferences.
In many cases, the affected tenant(s) and the perpetrator may live together, however the perpetrator does not have to be living in the same house for the situation to qualify as FDV.
Additions to list of 'designated professionals'
Tenants are able to leave their rental home by a Notice of termination of tenant’s interest in residential Tenancy Agreement on grounds of family violence and accompanying documentation evidencing FDV.
Evidence can include a Domestic Violence Order, a Family Court injunction or an application for an injunction, proof of criminal charges being laid by the tenant of a conviction relating to violence against the tenant or the new Family violence report - evidence form signed by a professional designated in the RTA.
From 12 October 2019, the list of designated professionals includes a prescribed class of person which means that additional professionals can now sign the evidence form. These professions are:
- a child protection worker;
- a family support worker; or
- a person in charge of an Aboriginal health, welfare or legal organisation.
Remember the Consumer Protection Family Violence Report Evidence Form is confidential and the agent and owner are responsible for ensuring that the documents are stored in a secure location. Any owner or agent who discloses the details, for example to a co-tenant, or does not keep the documents secure can be fined up to $5,000 for each offence. It is important that you ensure that the owner is aware of their obligations in relation to confidentiality
All notices relating to FDV circumstances must be served on each co-tenant individually. This includes the concurrent or subsequent notice of an exit property inspection.
Real estate agents cannot charge fees to owners that are related to FDV circumstances. An inspection that is required when a tenant’s interest is terminated for FDV reasons is to be treated as an ordinary final inspection and so therefore should be described and charged as such under the management agreement.
The FDV changes enable a tenant affected by family violence to change locks without the owner’s approval. Tenants must provide the real estate agent with a new key(s) within seven (7) days unless the owner is the alleged perpetrator. The real estate agent is prohibited from providing keys to anyone that the tenant has instructed them in writing not to.
Each agency should have appropriate procedures in place to document and safely store the keys. Procedures that are recommended include:
- affixing a tag to clearly identify the keys;
- keeping them secured at all times, perhaps in a separate locked cabinet;
- maintaining a key register;
- storing records of affected tenants and alleged perpetrators in a secure location; and
- restricting access to keys and records to senior members of the agency.
At no time should an alleged perpetrator of FDV be given keys that an affected tenant has provided.
The updated regulations allow tenants to make certain security upgrades to the premises without an owner/agent’s permission:
- after a perpetrator’s interest in a tenancy agreement is terminated; or
- if a tenant suspects, on reasonable grounds, that FDV is likely to be committed against them or their dependants.
Tenants have 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. All upgrades should comply with strata by-laws and take into consideration the age and character of the property.
Tenants can upgrade security without permission as long as:
- the tenant provides a written notice to the agent of their intention to make alterations;
- the upgrades are done by a qualified tradesperson;
- the tenant pays for the upgrades and all associated costs; and
- the tenant provides the agent with a copy of the invoice within 14 days of the alterations being completed.
A tenant must restore the premises to their original condition at the end of the tenancy if the landlord requires them to do so and, where work has been undertaken by a tradesperson, must provide to the landlord a copy of that tradesperson’s invoice within 14 days of that work having been performed.
Consumer Protection has developed a number of resources to assist you to meet your requirements in relation to FDV. These include flow charts for When a tenant terminates their interest in a lease on grounds of family and domestic violence; and when the Court orders termination of perpetrator tenant’s interest in a lease on grounds of family and domestic violence.
Industry Bulletins relating to FDV:
- Clarifying family and domestic violence law concerns – Real Estate industry bulletin 203
- Family and domestic violence insights – Answering “How did the tenancy end?” – Real Estate bulletin 198
- FDV laws are now in effect – Real Estate industry bulletin 194
Safe Tenancy WA Video
Consumer Protection’s Safe Tenancy WA video created an animation to explain family and domestic violence related changes to Western Australia’s tenancy laws – has now been produced in five languages other than English.
The Safe Tenancy WA video is available on Vimeo in the following translations:
Consumer Protection Awards 2020
The Consumer Protection Awards provides an opportunity to reward and recognise the achievements of individuals, non-government organisations, businesses, local governments, journalists and media outlets that have increased awareness of consumer issues, provided support for disadvantaged consumers or contributed to injury prevention for children. Potential nominees may have helped consumers with tenancy matters, scam prevention, debt management or understanding contracts.
For further information contact the Consumer Protection advice line on
1300 304 054 or by email.
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