Improving renting laws for people experiencing domestic violence
Domestic violence reforms were introduced on 28 February 2019 to provide stronger protections for renters experiencing domestic and family violence and abuse. The reforms allowed victim-survivors to immediately end their fixed term or periodic tenancy in circumstances of domestic violence without penalty. They also provide protection against blacklisting, and limits on liability for damage to rental property where the damage occurred as a result of a domestic violence offence.
Since their introduction these reforms have provided urgent and essential protections for people experiencing domestic and family violence and abuse. They have generally been working well, especially where a victim-survivor wishes to leave. However, there are a number of issues with the operation of the introduced provisions and continued barriers or problems survivor-victims continue to face.
The Government is currently undertaking a statutory review of the domestic violence provisions. Along with Women's Legal Service NSW and Domestic Violence NSW undertook a survey to help us identify and evidence key concerns and inform our recommendations to the review. The survey received 70 responses - 68 from support workers and advocates, 2 from renters who had used the provisions. Around 40% responses were from metro Sydney vs 60% from regional NSW. Our submission draws on these survey results, along with the experience of advocates from the statewide network of Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Services who provide support to renters to use the domestic violence provisions within the Residential Tenancies Act.
We made recommendations in relation to:
- Increased and ongoing resourcing for community education to improve awareness and understanding of domestic violence protections in the RTA
- Mandatory training for real estate agents and landlords, and improved complaints processes
- Expanding the list of competent persons
- No longer requiring a victim-survivor serve a Domestic Violence Termination Notice on the perpetrator
- Assisting victim-survivors to remain in their home (allowing occupants or co-tenants to end the tenancy of the perpetrator without a final AVO)
- Presumption of recognition of occupants when this is requested
- Victim-survivor to be able to make a direct claims on their rental bond at end of tenancy
- Mandatory training for Tribunal Members and consideration of Tribunal specialisation
- Protection against blacklisting
- Strengthening protections for survivor-victims re privacy and confidentiality
More information about current protections
Renters in NSW who are experiencing domestic violence are able to take action to end their tenancy and escape the situation without facing a penalty. They are also protected from financial liability for property damage resulting from a DV offence, and from being listed on a tenancy database.