Safe Tenancy WA: Update to Renting Laws
Changes made in April of 2019 to the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 now provide many options for thousands of Western Australians impacted by family and domestic violence to ensure their safety. This is an amendment to previous rental laws in WA that heavily restricted tenants being affected by family and domestic violence who wanted to end a tenancy agreement.
What is family and domestic violence?
Family and domestic violence (FDV) is threatening or controlling behavior within a relationship that can result in physical and/or psychological harm as well as causing the victim/s to live in constant fear.
Examples of criminal offences that occur include but are not limited to physical and/or sexual assault, threatening an individual’s safety, stalking, damaging property and breaching restraining orders.
Most commonly, the affected tenant/s and the perpetrator may be living together as co-tenants on a lease. New updates to renting laws allow tenants affected by family and domestic violence to quickly and legally terminate a residential tenancy, remove the perpetrator from the leasing agreement, and hold the right to both change locks and improve security without permission if circumstances require it.
What happens if there are multiple tenants on the lease?
If a tenant is affected by FDV, they can issue a Notice of Termination of Tenant’s Interest in Residential Tenancy Agreement on Grounds of Family Violence and the property manager will provide copies of this notice to any other tenants (without accompanying evidence such as restraining orders or domestic violence orders) who then have 7 days to decide if they would like to continue the lease. If a co-tenant wishes to stay and continue the lease, the property manager must agree, even if said tenant is the alleged perpetrator. Alternatively, if the co-tenant wishes to leave and terminate the agreement, they must give their 21 days’ notice.
On the other hand, If the tenant affected by FDV wants to remain on the lease and instead remove the perpetrator, they will need to apply to the court to have them removed from the tenancy agreement. The property manager and any other tenants on the lease will find out about this via a notice from the court requiring them to attend a hearing.
What if security changes need to be made?
If there is a direct threat to the tenant’s safety and they feel it is necessary to prevent family or domestic violence they suspect is likely to be committed against them, the locks to the property can be changed without first seeking the owner’s permission. The locks can also be changed after the perpetrator has been terminated from the tenancy agreement as a form of safety without any notice being given beforehand.
The lock change will need to be paid for by the tenant (although it maybe eligible to be funded by a safety scheme) and within seven days, a copy of the new key/s must be given to the property manager unless they are the alleged perpetrator. The property manager Is prohibited from giving a copy of any of the new keys to anybody that you have specifically instructed them in writing not to as this is a breach of safety.
If a tenant requires access to the forms mentioned above, they are available at www.safetenancy.wa.gov.au along with much more specific information.
If the correct form and accompanying evidence are given to the property manager, situations of family and domestic violence cannot be disputed.