Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness of women and children. New reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) provide greater safeguards to domestic violence victims. These safeguards are in the form of preventing victims from accruing debt as a result of outstanding rent or damage to the property and prevented from being blacklisted on a residential tenancy database if they abandon their rental property due to domestic violence.
Prior to the reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW), if victims of domestic violence or a dependent child of the tenant wanted to end their fixed term tenancy without liability, they were required to:
- Give their landlord 14 days’ notice and a copy of a final apprehended violence order which excluded the perpetrator from the rental property
- Seek an order from the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal
Now, victims of domestic violence have a right of early, immediate termination for a residential tenancy agreement pursuant to section 105B of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 which is set out below.
Immediate termination in circumstances of domestic violence
Section 105B of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 provides that:
- A tenant may give a termination notice to the landlord and each co-tenant, for a residential tenancy agreement if the tenant or a dependent child of the tenant is in circumstances of domestic violence.
- A person is in ‘circumstances of domestic violence’ if the person:
a) Has been the victim of a domestic violence offence while a tenant of the residential premises and can provide a certificate of conviction of the domestic violence offender, or
b) Is the person for whose protection a provisional, interim or final Domestic Violence Order (DVO) has been made against a relevant domestic violence offender and the DVO is in force, or
c) Is the person for whose protection an injunction under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) has been granted on the basis of evidence of family violence and the injunction is in force, or
d) Has been declared by a competent person to be a victim of domestic violence perpetrated by the relevant domestic violence offender during the residential tenancy agreement.
The domestic violence termination notice must include a date of termination. Pursuant to section 105D(3) and (4) of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010, for two weeks after the domestic violence termination notice is given, any remaining tenants, excluding the domestic violence offender, are not required to divide the rent to cover the ex-tenant’s share of the rent.
Liability for damage
Section 54(1A) of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 states that victims of domestic violence are not liable for damage caused by a co-tenant or person during the commission of a domestic violence offence. This gives the NSW Civil and Administrative tribunal the power to assign liability for damage to a particular co-tenant or domestic violence offender.
Listing on tenant databases prohibited
Under section 213A of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010, landlords and their agents are prohibited from listing personal information about a person in a residential tenancy database if they ended their tenancy by giving a domestic violence termination notice.
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DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is general and is not intended to be advice on any matter. It is for information only and is not legal advice. In the event of a legal problem, you should seek legal advice.