Changes to WA Residential Tenancy Act - Family and Domestic Violence

Recent changes to WA Residential Tenancy Act have come into effect on April 15th 2019 and gives tenants the ability to vacate a lease with seven day’s notice in cases of domestic or family violence.  
To end a tenancy due to Family and Domestic Violence a tenant will need to give a prescribed notice (“Notice of Termination of Tenant’s Interests in Residential Tenancy Agreement on Grounds of Family Violence”) plus one of the following permitted forms of evidence:
  • Family or Domestic Violence Restraining Order
  • family court injunction or an application for a family court injunction;
  • copy of a prosecution notice or an indictment detailing a charge relating to family violence having been committed against the tenant or co-tenant; OR
  • Consumer Protection Family violence report – Evidence form
Victims can also apply to the court to stay and have their abusers name removed from a tenancy agreement, assign liability for damages or unpaid rent to the perpetrator and also allows the victim to change the locks without first obtaining the consent from landlords. In addition victims can make prescribed security upgrades to the premises without a lessor/property manager’s permission:
  • after a perpetrator’s interest in a tenancy agreement is terminated; or
  • if necessary to prevent family violence that the tenant suspect is likely to be committed against them or their dependant(s). The Tenant must inform the lessor/property manager about their intention to make the security upgrades, which must be installed by a qualified tradesperson.  The Tenant is responsible for any associated costs and to supply a copy of any invoice to the lessor/property manager.  All upgrades should comply with strata by-laws and take into consideration the age and character of the property. If the landlord asks a tenant to restore the premises to original condition at the end of the tenancy, the tenant is required to do so. While the tenant remains in the premises, it will the tenant’s responsibility to maintain the security alteration. Once the tenant leaves the premises however, if the alteration is left behind, this becomes a fixture of the premises and therefore becomes the responsibility of the landlord to maintain.
In the case of damage to the premises or unpaid rent because of Family and Domestic Violence, a Magistrate can assign liability to the perpetrator. Either a vacating or remaining tenant will need to apply for this court order. If there is no court order, all tenants remain jointly liable for any damages and or debt. This provision can only be used if a tenant’s interest in the tenancy has been terminated due to FDV circumstances. Generally the lessor will be able to require any remaining tenant(s) to restore the security bond to the maximum amount allowable under the tenancy law.
Note: A tenant who ends their tenancy in circumstances of family and domestic violence will not be liable to pay any compensation or additional money for the early termination. E.g. the tenant will not need to pay a break lease’ fee, loss of rent, advertising and a re-letting fee or an occupation fee for abandoned goods.

Further information is available here.

Will this affect Landlord Insurance? We strongly recommend to landlords to check the wording of their policy and contact their insurer.  In many cases there should be no impact on insurance.