New tenancy laws passed to protect victims of family and domestic violence

Stock image.
Stock image.

THE ability to terminate a tenancy in seven days or install security in a rental home are some of the new tenancy laws passed by State Parliament yesterday.

They are part of the Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment (Family Violence) Bill which will provide more options and greater support for those experiencing family and domestic violence.

The amendments are aimed at giving the victim better choices, including whether to stay in the tenancy or move to safer accommodation, or remove tenancy-related concerns, which are barriers to leaving a violent relationship.

The new laws include:

– Being able to terminate a tenancy agreement within seven days by providing the landlord with evidence of domestic violence, such as a restraining order or a letter from a medical professional, removing the need to go to court;

– Being able to stay in the home if they choose – they will be able to apply to the court to have the perpetrator’s name removed from the tenancy agreement;

– Being able to change the locks immediately, without permission from their landlord;

– Being able to install CCTV security at their rental home, at their own cost; and

– Provisions to deal with property damage, unpaid rent and disbursement of the bond to ensure the victim does not carry the financial burden after a tenancy ends.

The new laws are due to come into effect in mid-April.

Commerce Minister John Quigley said the changes were long overdue and put WA at the forefront of family and domestic violence lay across Australia.

REIWA commended the government on achieving a positive outcome for both victims and landlords.

President Damian Collins said while the institute and its members had always been supportive of introducing legislation to help victims of family violence leave tenancies in which they were unsafe, it was important that preventative measures were in place to stop the legislation from being misused.

“Family violence is a growing issue in our community and we all have a responsibility to help eradicate it and ensure measures are put in place to assist victims instead of punish them,” he said.

“However, it was also important to protect the rights of property owners by ensuring the new legislation could not be used without just cause.

“We are pleased the WA Government has listened to the recommendations of the real estate industry by including a legally binding declaration in the prescribed forms.

“This means in cases where there has been no criminal charges laid, the victim will sign a declaration to reaffirm their claims, removing the need to go to court.

“This will also assist the prescribed professionals when completing the report in confidence.”

The declaration carries significant penalties should the claimant be found to be making false statements.

Prominent Aboriginal artist Barbara Bynder has produced a painting to represent the positive changes to the tenancy laws.

“Freedom to Fly’ was unveiled today at Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Aboriginal Corporation.

Freedom to Fly by Barbara Bynder.

Describing her painting Ms Bynder said:

“The darker colours are representing the domestic violence situation that victims find themselves in, and the lighter colour of the bird is symbolically freedom to fly.

“The bars symbolise feelings of entrapment and isolation with nowhere to go. In the painting the bars are beginning to fade and bend.

“This is because when you get to the end of the domestic violence situation, the victim can see the way out, however is not always able to leave.

“The lighter colours circling the bars is offering glimpses of hope. The new laws give the victim an opportunity to see through the bars that entrap them.”

More information about the Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment (Family Violence) Bill is available on the Consumer Protection website at www.dmirs.wa.gov.au/familyviolence.