RENT RELIEF FOR ABUSE VICTIMS
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.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection 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.”