Changes to domestic violence residential tenancy laws

From 11 December 2020, more professionals will be able to help tenants escape a domestic violence situation in a rented home by making a declaration.

A tenant can end their fixed-term or periodic tenancy immediately and without penalty if the they or their dependent child is in a domestic violence situation.

To do this, a tenant needs to give their landlord or agent a termination notice and certain evidence.

Since February 2019, medical practitioners could make a declaration as evidence that a tenant is in a domestic violence situation.

Starting 11 December 2020, the following professionals can make a declaration:

  • health practitioners who hold general or specialist registration under the Health Practitioner National Law - for example nurses, psychologists, paramedics, physiotherapists and more
  • social workers who are a member of the Australian Association of Social Workers
  • NSW government employees working in child protection
  • employees of non-government agencies that receive government funding to provide services for victims of domestic violence/sexual assault or refuge/emergency accommodation
  • approved counsellors under the Victims Rights and Support Act 2013.

The changes will ensure that tenants who are in this situation can seek help from a broader range of professionals.

New forms

A new Declaration by competent person for tenant and Declaration by competent person for tenant's dependent child replace the forms currently used by medical practitioners.

However, if the previous declaration forms are used by a medical practitioner after 11 December 2020, a tenant will still be able to use it to terminate their tenancy.

Apart from the new declaration form, the requirements for providing domestic violence declarations have not changed. 

Authorised professionals must still only provide a declaration if they form a view, based on a professional consultation with a tenant (or their dependent child, if applicable) that the tenant, or dependent child, is a victim of domestic violence perpetrated by a relevant domestic violence offender during the tenancy.

For more information about the changes and the new declaration forms, see ‘ending a tenancy’.

Other changes to residential tenancy laws

Landlord liability for sewerage usage charges

Currently the law does not specify who is liable to pay for sewerage usage.

From 11 December 2020, the regulation clarifies that the landlord is liable for sewerage usage charges, similarly to drainage usage charges which are also payable by the landlord.

Exemption for head lease agreements between local councils and social housing providers

The changes also exempt councils from the Act where the premises are leased to a social housing provider, for the purpose of subletting to social housing tenants under a social housing tenancy agreement.

The changes do not affect sublease agreements between social housing providers and tenants, who are still subject to requirements under tenancy legislation.

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