: Proposed tenancy law reforms improve rights for victims of domestic violence

Proposed tenancy law reforms improve rights for victims of domestic violence

Kellie McDonald
New South Wales

On 5 July 2016, Victor Dominello, the Innovation and Better Regulation Minister, and Pru Goward, the Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, announced their intention to reform the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) in the first half of 2017 to improve the rights of victims of domestic violence living in rental properties.

Under the current tenancy laws victims escaping domestic violence can end their tenancy without liability by giving 14 days written notice if they have a final apprehended violence order (‘AVO’) with an order excluding the perpetrator of violence from the rental property.

People experiencing domestic violence often need to flee their home quickly in order to remain safe. In our experience, it can take up to 12 months to finalise an AVO, especially where there are criminal charges.

The proposed reforms will enable victims of domestic violence to end their tenancy immediately, without liability, by attaching a provisional, interim or final AVO or a family law injunction, to a notice of termination. 

Currently co-tenants are jointly and severally liable for any damage done to a rental property. The reforms will allow the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal to order that the perpetrator of violence be solely responsible to compensate the landlord for any damage they caused to the rental property.

Women’s Legal Service NSW welcomes these reforms, however we believe that victims too fearful to report violence to the Police should be able to rely on a statutory declaration from a relevant professional to end their tenancy without liability. 

KELLIE McDONALD is a senior solicitor with the Women’s Legal Service NSW.

(2016) 41(3) AltLJ 211
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