As we lead into International Women’s Day on Monday 8th March, there is a need for us all to focus on the effects of domestic violence. As property professionals, it is particularly important to have an understanding of the tenancy laws for victims of domestic violence. In accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW), Division 3A Termination by tenant – circumstances of domestic violence, a tenant can end their tenancy immediately, without penalty, if they or their dependent child are in circumstances of domestic violence.
The tenant will need to give the landlord or their agent a Domestic Violence Termination Notice and attach one of the permitted forms of evidence:
The laws surrounding the declaration have changed. Previously, only registered medical practitioners were allowed to complete a domestic violence declaration.
From 11 December 2020, a wider range of competent persons may provide a declaration, these include:
There are now four (4) new forms for victims to complete if they wish to end their tenancy. These forms can be found on the NSW Fair Trading website and they can be downloaded. Most of the providers of agency agreements also have these forms available for you to download.
Each co-tenant must also be provided with a domestic violence termination notice (without any evidence).
A landlord or any remaining co-tenant(s) can apply to the Tribunal (NCAT) if they wish to dispute the validity of a domestic violence termination notice. The Tribunal can only examine whether the domestic violence termination notice was properly given under the tenancy laws. A landlord is not able to dispute the contents of a declaration in any Tribunal proceedings if it is used as evidence.
A tenant who ends their tenancy in these circumstances is not liable to pay any compensation or additional money for the early termination. E.g., a victim does not need to pay a break fee, loss of rent, advertising and a reletting fee or an occupation fee for abandoned goods.
Victims will have the right to privacy and protection from discrimination to ensure that a victim’s ability to secure a rental property in the future is not negatively impacted by a domestic violence termination:
After a tenant gives a domestic violence termination notice, a co-tenant who remains in the tenancy will be:
It is essential that agents have a knowledge about the processes surrounding the ending of a tenancy in the circumstances of domestic violence and that you have the capacity and the knowledge to support your tenants through this process.