If a person is renting and experiencing domestic violence there are a number of options available to make them safer in their home. It is important that they seek advice from a lawyer or from their local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service as the options will depend on the type of tenant they are and the type of Residential Tenancy Agreement they have.
Removing a perpetrator of violence
In some circumstances, a victim of domestic violence may want the perpetrator removed from the home. The victim of violence can make an application for an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) and ask for an exclusion order preventing the perpetrator from entering the property. They could also apply for an order from the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) to end the tenancy of the perpetrator.
If a tenant has a final ADVO with an exclusion order, then the tenancy of a perpetrator who is named on the Residential Tenancy Agreement will terminate automatically.
Changing the locks
Changing the locks at the property can significantly increase the safety of the victim if they want to stay in their home. Usually a landlord’s permission is needed before locks can be changed, however, there are special provisions that allow a victim of domestic violence to change the locks without a landlord’s consent in certain circumstances. For example, a tenant can change the locks without consent in an emergency or if they have an ADVO with an exclusion order against another tenant or former occupant.
Ending an agreement early
Sometimes a victim of domestic violence may need to leave the premises and end their Residential Tenancy Agreement early. If the Residential Tenancy Agreement is a periodic agreement then a tenant or co-tenant can give 21 days written notice to their landlord and any other co-tenants. If they are in a fixed term agreement and need to leave early then this can be more complicated. Simply abandoning the property may not end a tenant’s liability and a victim of violence can be left owing a substantial debt to the landlord.
If a tenant has a final ADVO with an exclusion order against another tenant or occupant then they can end their Residential Tenancy Agreement by giving their landlord and any other co-tenants 14 days written notice. Otherwise, they can make an application to NCAT to end their Agreement and liability given the ‘special circumstances’ of the case.
It is common for victims of domestic violence to be listed on tenant databases due to debts they have incurred as a result of abandoning the property or due to damage caused to the property by the perpetrator. A black listing on a tenant database can make it almost impossible to find alternative housing. If a victim of domestic violence has been listed on a tenant database they can make an application to NCAT to have their name removed if the listing was ‘unjust in the circumstances’.