Tenants trapped in violent relationships will be protected by new renting reforms, which come into on February 28, giving “comfort” to victims of domestic violence.
Victims of domestic violence will be able to end a lease immediately and without penalty (if they have either a doctors letter of a provisional AVO); won’t be held accountable for property damage that occurred during a violent incident; while landlords will be barred from listing a victim on a tenancy database if they terminated their tenancy in circumstances of domestic violence.
It’s the first of a suite of changes to the Residential Tenancy Act to come into effect this year.
Team Leader of the Illawarra and South Coast Tenants Service Warren Wheeler said current legislation forced people to give two weeks notice along with a final Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) to end a lease because of DV.
“Those who wish to escape the property they’re in, it gives them the ability to do so a lot easier, without relying on a real estate agent or landlord’s goodwill,” Mr Wheeler said.
Spokeswoman for the Salvation Army Illawarra, Karen Walker, welcomed the change as currently breaking a lease could be “detrimental” for victims who may be blacklisted for cutting their contract early.
“The Salvation Army ultimately wants to see every community member living in a safe environment,” she said.
Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said he wanted to bring this change in as soon as possible, to give victims “certainty and a chance to more easily escape their situation”.
President of the Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW) Leanne Pilkington said it was a “real problem” and most property managers would know of situations where a violent relationship forced the end of a lease.
For landlords concerned they may end up out of pocket due to damage incurred during an incident, Ms Pilkington urged them to obtain the right insurance policy which covered that – as not all do.
Other changes reforms to be rolled out later this year include additional protections for tenants to ensure their rental meets basic living standards, limiting rent increases to once every 12 months; mandatory set fees for breaking fixed-term leases; and the ability to make small changes to their rental, like installing picture hooks and curtains.
“These reforms empower victims when they’re often feeling helpless, and it gives them a sense of dignity during such a difficult time,” Mr Kean said. “Victims are often at their most vulnerable when leaving a violent relationship, and our reforms alleviate some of the pressure during a time of need.”
However "no grounds" evictions, which give landlords the power to evict tenants without reason, will remain in place.
For more information on the tenancy laws, visit: www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au