New tenancy laws introduced 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 a rental property and reasonable rent control so that victimised tenants can be ensured some level of safety and 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 will not be held responsible for any property damage resulting from domestic violence. The law states that landlords must take care to retain a reasonable rent for such tenants as any kind of retaliatory rent increases may push them to vacate the property unfairly.
Tenants who feel unduly pressurised or discriminated against by the landlord on account of domestic violence on the property can approach Fair Trading to resolve disputes. They can also take the help of Fair Trading to get rectification orders issued.
What are the responsibilities of the landlord?
As per the new laws, landlords should be extra sensitive to the situation of domestic violence and safeguard the interests and well-being of vulnerable tenants. Landlords have the following responsibilities:
- 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 lot in a strata property and would like further advice, we’d recommend you seek the appropriate legal guidance to handle issues sensitively and discreetly so that such tenants do not feel further victimised. Worthwhile references to also be aware of are the by-laws and regulations around tenancy, property leasing and short-term letting.
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