The Residential Tenancies Legislation Amendment (Family Violence) Bill 2018 was introduced into Parliament on 15 May 2018. The Bill seeks to amend the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (RT Act) and the Residential Parks (Long-stay Tenants) Act 2006. The aim is to support victims of family and domestic violence; and help them leave abusive relationships; empower the court and others, including the victim, to do what is in the best interests of a victim of family violence. Key changes, which could be law by the end of 2018, would enable victims of family and domestic violence to exit a tenancy with seven days’ notice without going to court. Other changes would remove a perpetrator from a lease by applying to the courts, change locks or increase security, handle disputes about property damage or unpaid rent, and have their name removed from a tenancy database.
The State Government awarded Tenancy WA a $50,000 grant to support a family violence education program relating to proposed amendments to the RT Act. Under the proposed laws, victims of family and domestic violence would be able to exit a tenancy within seven days or remove a perpetrator from their lease by applying to the courts. The grant is critical to ensuring that workers across Western Australia are able to support people who have experienced domestic violence to access the new remedies available under the legislative reform. Tenancy Western Australia, in conjunction with the Women’s Council, will educate tenant advocates, community lawyers and refuge workers about the new legal options. The aim is to ensure that wherever a victim of family domestic violence seeks assistance they get the right information and support to access these remedies.
Case studies have been shared by tenant advocates from a community legal centre. The following real-life example demonstrates how these new laws would have assisted a victim of family and domestic violence known as ‘Sarah’.
Sarah had been in a relationship with her partner for a few years and he had been violent with her a number of times. This behaviour escalated when she became pregnant. She was very badly injured by him one night and called her real estate agent from hospital to negotiate breaking her lease. Unfortunately the landlord refused and Sarah had to leave the property as it was not safe for her to return. Tenancy WA supported her in negotiations with the landlord, however as Western Australia had no specific provisions in the RT Act to deal with family and domestic violence situations, the landlord pursued her for break lease compensation, rent arrears and the damage her partner had caused to the property. Under the new laws, Sarah would have been able to issue a notice to terminate the tenancy and apply to court to fairly apportion the liability.
The State Government is committed to providing workplace support measures to employees in situations of family and domestic violence through the introduction of an additional paid leave entitlement and support for all employees. For the first time during the year, Family and Domestic Violence (FDV) paid leave was incorporated into public sector industrial agreements as they were renegotiated by the department. FDV Implementation Guidelines were also issued to support employers in developing their own agency-specific arrangements and procedures. The department will support employees affected by family and domestic violence by providing: