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Further protection for families in domestic violence situations

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A person who has experienced Family Violence can find themselves dealing with several different areas of law (and processes), all at the same time. The different areas of law include Restraining Orders, Family Law, Criminal and Tenancy Law.

This is because Family Violence is a multifaceted issue and can be experienced by people of all classes, religions, ethnicity, sexual preference, and ages, both inside and outside of the home.

The law is catching up on the need for change in many ways. On 12 December 2018, the Fair Work Amendment (Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Act 2018 also took effect. These changes mean that all employees now have access to Family and Domestic Violence leave, regardless of whether they’re covered by an award or not.

Further, given that a lease agreement enables a person the right to occupy a home (including a person who commits an act of Family Violence), it is high time that Family Violence is now recognised under Tenancy Law.

On 15 April 2019, amendments were made to the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (WA) to assist people, and children, who have been subjected to or exposed to, Family Violence.

Previously, if a tenant experienced Family Violence, there was no avenue available under the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (WA) to deal with the situation. The tenant would usually be forced to leave the premises for their own safety, and/or be liable for several costs, including but not limited to all of the damage to the property caused by the person who has committed the acts of family violence, rent arrears, and break lease compensation (if applicable).

Not to mention having their name listed on the ‘bad’ tenant database, making it extremely difficult for them to find another rental.

With the new amendments, the following options are now available to a person who has experienced Family Violence:

  1. Ending the lease agreement, quickly, and easily, without having to pay compensation to the landlord for leaving early;
  2. Staying in the Premises and being able to increase security, or applying to the Court to remove the tenant who has committed the acts of Family Violence from the lease agreement; and
  3. Being able to apportion any liability resulting from Family Violence to the tenant who has committed the acts of family violence.

If a person who has experienced the family violence wants to end the lease agreement all that is required is for the tenant to provide at least 7 days’ notice to the landlord, by completing a Notice of Termination, and providing one of the specified supporting documents.

Examples of supporting documents include an injunction in the Family Court, an application for a Family Court injunction, or a Family Violence Restraining Order.

We understand, and are aware of, the different options available to you to protect yourself, and/or your children, if you are dealing with a Family Violence situation. If you would like more advice on what you can do, please contact us.

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Domestic violence and children

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Wednesday, 26 June 2019