Victims of domestic violence in NSW will soon be able to flee their homes faster and without penalty for abandoning a rental property.
The change is among reforms to residential tenancy laws announced on Tuesday by Innovation and Better Regulation Minister Victor Dominello and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Pru Goward.
South Coast welfare advocates have welcomed the change which they say will provide victims with more options.
“It’s about sending a very clear message that women are not to be penalised for the behaviour of their partners,” said Lesley Labka from the Supported Accommodation & Homelessness Services Shoalhaven Illawarra.
Currently victims of domestic violence on a fixed lease must provide 14 days' notice to their landlord, with potential liabilities, in addition to a final AVO, which can take up to 12 months to obtain.
Ms Labka said she worked with victims in troubling tenancy situations like this all the time and the ramifications were huge.
She said victims were often trapped in a tenancy that wasn’t safe because it was a known location, they incurred tremendous debt and could be blacklisted on tenancy databases for property damage by a violent partner.
“It makes it virtually impossible for small towns like the Shoalhaven and the Illawarra to find alternative rental accommodation,” Ms Labka said.
“Given the long waiting lists for social housing in our district … that basically puts women and children homeless."
The new laws, to be introduced during the first half of 2017, will allow tenants to end their tenancy immediately by providing evidence of domestic violence through a provisional, interim or final AVO, or court order.
Agents and landlords will also be prohibited from listing a victim of domestic violence on a database where a debt or property damage arose because of a violent partner.
The reforms, which follow a review of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010, will also make changes to the list of reasonable excuses to change locks, to protect a tenant from domestic violence; and to remove, in cases of domestic violence, the automatic liability of a tenant for the damage caused by others who are on the premises.
"Leaving a violent relationship can be one of the most challenging decisions anyone makes," Ms Goward said.
"We are getting rid of the red tape and streamlining the system to support domestic violence victims to leave."