Laws to help tenants escape family violence closer after bill introduced in State Parliament

Laws to help tenants escape family violence closer after bill introduced in State Parliament

LAWS to help tenants experiencing family violence are one step closer with a bill introduced to Parliament this month.

The Residential Tenancies Legislation (Family Violence) Amendment Bill proposes changes to tenancy laws to give tenants affected by family and domestic violence new choices and options to:

– End a tenancy directly with a landlord/lessor or property manager by providing evidence, such as a Family Violence Restraining Order or a form signed by an independent third party such as a police officer, doctor, social worker or psychologist;
– Stay in the rental home by applying to the Magistrates Court to have a perpetrator removed from a lease (currently there is no avenue to remove the perpetrator from the tenancy);
– Deal with disputes around property damage, unpaid rent and bond disbursement to avoid financial burden when leaving a tenancy;
– 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;
– Improve security at the rental home at their own cost, for example installing CCTV; and
– Have their name removed from a tenancy database if the reason for the blacklisting was caused by family and domestic violence – this is so they are not excluded from the rental marketplace in future.

Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard said housing uncertainty could force people to stay in abusive relationships.

“At the moment, someone leaving a rental property at short notice because of family violence must pay rent until a new tenant is found or the agreement expires,” he said.

“The cost of breaking lease often results in family and domestic violence victims, including children, either staying in a violent home or being homeless until the previous tenancy ends.

Consumer Protection Commissioner David Hillyard.

“In fact, family and domestic violence is the reason for about 40 per cent of homelessness.”

Mr Hillyard said it was to be expected that investment property owners would have concerns about the changes and what the cost would be to them, but they had a potentially life-saving role in this space.

“In some instances it might cost a few weeks rent while a property is vacant and readvertised but we need to balance this with the concept that the family violence victims will be safe from fear, injury or even death,” he said.

Mr Hillyard said there would be benefits for landlords.

“Experience tells us rental properties are often abandoned and damaged because of family violence, while financial abuse, where the perpetrator withholds money, results in unpaid rent,” he said.

“Allowing those affected by family and domestic violence to end their tenancy by telling the truth, reduces the chances of unexpected abandonment or failure to pay rent, while providing options for either party to remain in the tenancy means the property is less likely to be left vacant.”

Keep up-to-date with the progress of the bill at www.dmirs.wa.gov.au/familyviolence.

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