NSW introduces reforms to tenancy laws to protect domestic violence victims

The NSW government announced new reforms to residential tenancy laws by passing the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Bill 2018, that will be effective from 28 February 2019.

 

The reforms are amendments of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 that reinforce existing tenancy laws while also introducing measures to protect the rights of tenants who are victims of domestic violence.

These new laws call for minimum habitable standards of rented property and reasonable rent control so that the renting experience of victimised tenants ensure them a sense of security.

It also clearly outlines how landlords can effectively manage their tenanted properties, protect their financial assets and address disputes over repairs and maintenance keeping victimised tenants’ best interests at heart.

 

How are the rights of tenants of domestic violence protected?

Tenants or co-tenants who need to get away from abusive partners have the right to end their tenancy immediately without having to pay penalties. They cannot be held responsible for any property damage resulting from domestic violence. The law states that these tenants must not be subject to unwarranted retaliatory rent increases that could push them to vacate the property unfairly.

If tenants are subject to discrimination by the landlord on account of domestic violence on the property, they can approach Fair Trading to resolve disputes. They can also take the help of Fair Trading to get rectification orders issue.

 

What are the responsibilities of the landlord by law?

The new laws highlight how landlords have a responsibility to safeguard the interests and well-being of tenants and guests vulnerable to domestic abuse.

  • Minimum standards: Landlords must maintain minimum standards to ensure their property is fit for renting. Their property must be structurally sound, and have the necessary plumbing, gas, electricity, heating, adequate light, ventilation and other facilities for a comfortable living. They must take care of timely maintenance and repairs of damages in the property to protect their tenants from harm.

 

  • Tenancy records: Moreover, landlords and property management agents must take care not to lodge the history of victimised tenants on a tenancy database or discriminate against their tenancy in the future. All records of tenancy must be handled sensitively and discreetly disposed so as to protect the privacy of the tenants of domestic abuse.

 

  • Rent and damage control: Landlords must take care not to increase the rent for such tenants outside of the agreed lease requirements. They must be careful not to impose fines to innocent parties for property damaged as a result of domestic violence.

PICA Group tip: If you own a tenanted property in a strata scheme, your strata committee can intervene on your behalf to resolve any disputes you may have with your tenants and guests. They can help you get legal guidance and handle issues sensitively and discreetly so that such tenants do not feel further victimised. Make sure to be aware of the by-laws about tenancy, property leasing and short-term letting.

 

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