Family violence is likely to have an impact on a person’s living arrangements. Unfortunately, the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 only includes two sections that may assist tenants experiencing family violence.
In any situation, if you want to break or terminate your lease check our Leaving Leases Early fact sheet to understand, which options may be available to you.
If you decide to remain in your rental property, you can have the perpetrator taken off the lease. You can also change the locks without requiring the landlord’s consent.
Have the perpetrator taken off the lease
If you are on a fixed term lease you can have the perpetrator taken off the lease, which will revoke their right to enter the premises. To have the perpetrator taken off the lease, the victim needs to apply for a family violence order (FVO) and request in the Magistrate’s Court that the perpetrator be removed from the lease agreement. Neither the perpetrator’s nor the landlord’s permission is required to remove the perpetrator from the lease.
Removing the perpetrator off the lease will revoke their right to enter the premises. If they seek to enter again, they will be trespassing and the victim can call the police to have them removed. If damage occurs to the property through the fault of the perpetrator after they were removed from the lease, the tenant is not liable for the damage. If damage has occurred, you should keep a written record as well as contacting the police.
The disadvantage of having the perpetrator removed from the lease is that you may be liable for the full rent as well as the perpetrator knowing where you live.
If you are having difficulty paying the rent you may discuss adding someone to the lease or subletting a room with your landlord to cover costs.
Recently, the Act was amended. The amendments have been passed but have not yet come into effect. In short, the amendments will provide the court with two additional options:
- Terminate the lease agreement (i.e. no lease agreement between tenants and landlord); or
- Allow the victim to be taken off the lease agreement (i.e. a lease agreement solely between perpetrator and landlord).
Change the locks
If a Family Violence Order or Police Family Violence Order is in place to protect a tenant, the tenant may change the locks and security devices without having to wait for the consent of the landlord. Note though that you will need to provide the landlord with the new keys as soon as practicable.