Landmark changes to the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Act 2018 (the Act) came into effect on 28 February 2019 and allow tenants experiencing domestic violence to terminate their tenancy immediately and without penalty.
In a members only webinar on 20 February 2019, Nerida Wood, REINSW Training Manager, and Kristi Lorenz, REINSW Trainer, discussed the domestic violence reforms.
Referencing the information outlined in the Act, Wood and Lorenz answered questions from property managers, landlords and tenants regarding their rights and responsibilities when dealing with circumstances of domestic violence.
Now, three weeks on since the commencement of the Act, we revisit those questions as a reminder of what you are required to do if a tenant terminates a tenancy on the grounds of domestic violence.
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is a crime inclusive of physical, verbal, psychological, emotional, social, financial or sexual violence, and any sort of harassment or stalking.
What constitutes a domestic relationship?
The Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 states a person has a domestic relationship with another person if they:
- Are or have been married to the other person
- Are or have been a de facto partner of the other person
- Have or have had an intimate personal relationship with the other person (whether sexual or not)
- Live or have lived in the same household as the other person
- Have or have had a relationship involving his or her dependence on the ongoing paid or unpaid care of the other person
- Are or have been a relative of the other person
- Are or have been part of the extended family or kin of the other person (in the case of Aboriginal persons or Torres Strait Islanders)
It is interesting to note that – according to this definition – you are considered to be in a domestic relationship with anyone you have had a domestic relationship with past or present. For example, a woman’s current and ex-partner are both considered to have domestic relationships with the woman. – Kristi Lorenz
What is the process for a victim to end a tenancy under circumstances of domestic violence?
To terminate a residential tenancy agreement, a victim must provide a termination notice along with supporting evidence. Supporting evidence includes one of the following:
- Domestic Violence Order issued by the Court
- Provisional Domestic Violence Order from a senior police officer
- Certificate of Conviction
- Declaration of a competent person
Who is a competent person?
Under the Act, a competent person is described as a medical practitioner within the meaning of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW). This includes a GP, physician, psychiatrist or paediatrician. You can access more information on the domestic violence declaration on the NSW Fair Trading website and a full list of medical practitioners on the Medical Board of Australia website.
What are the penalties for making a false claim of domestic violence?
There are serious penalties for falsifying a Declaration of a competent person. Under the Act, a victim or medical practitioner can each be fined 100 penalty points (equating to $11,000) and face up to two years in prison.