No place for family violence
No place for family violence
Did you know WA is second only to the NT when it comes to rates of family and domestic violence (FDV) and there were more than 50,000 reported incidents across the State in 2016-17? Sadly, family violence is a growing problem in our community and the abuse, whether physical or psychological, often occurs in rental homes. That’s why we’re changing our tenancy laws.
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. This can be costly and can mean FDV victims, including children, either stay in a violent home or risk becoming homeless.
Under the proposed changes, tenants affected by FDV would have new choices and options to:
- end a tenancy directly with a landlord / lessor or property manager by providing evidence (e.g. Family Violence Restraining Order or a form signed by 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 this can’t happen);
- deal with disputes around property damage, unpaid rent and bond disbursement;
- 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 FDV – this is so they are not excluded from renting in the future.
If you own an investment property you might be concerned about these changes and what the cost will be – but remember it’s no exaggeration to say landlords can have a potentially life-saving role.
There will also be benefits for landlords …
- Experience tells us rental properties are often abandoned and damaged because of family violence, while financial abuse, where the perpetrator withholds money, results in unpaid rent. Allowing those affected by FDV to end their tenancy by telling the truth, reduces the chances of unexpected abandonment or failure to pay rent.
- Providing options for either party to remain in the tenancy means the property is less likely to be left vacant.
- If a tenant knows they are under threat and cannot contact a landlord, their decision to change the locks could prevent a serious crime happening in the rental property.
- Ensuring family violence victims are not listed on tenancy databases as ‘unsuitable’, for reasons a perpetrator is accountable for, which means more good tenants to choose from.
The reality is that family violence affects people from all walks of life and costs this country’s economy billions of dollars a year. It’s everyone’s business and we need to play a part in preventing it.
Keep up-to-date with the Bill’s progress at www.dmirs.wa.gov.au/familyviolence.
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