Every person has a right to feel safe and live free from domestic violence. If there is violence in your rented home you should contact the Police or a domestic violence advice or support service. Here are some steps you can take under the tenancy agreement to improve your safety.
Ending a tenancy in circumstances of domestic violence
A tenant can end their fixed-term or periodic tenancy immediately, without penalty, if the tenant or their dependent child is in circumstances of domestic violence. A tenant or their dependent child is in circumstances of domestic violence if they:
- were the victim of a domestic violence offence during the tenancy
- are protected by an in-force provisional, interim or final Domestic Violence Order (DVO)
- are protected against family violence by an in-force family law injunction
- have been declared by a medical practitioner to be a victim of domestic violence perpetrated by the relevant domestic violence offender during the current tenancy.
To end a tenancy due to domestic violence, a tenant will need to give:
- the landlord or the landlord’s agent a domestic violence termination notice and attach one of the following permitted forms of evidence:
- certificate of conviction for the domestic violence offence
- family law injunction
- provisional, interim or final Domestic Violence Order
- declaration made by a medical practitioner in the prescribed form.
- each co-tenant a domestic violence termination notice.
A minimum notice period is not required in such circumstances. The termination notice must include a termination date, which can be on the same day that the notice is given or a date after the notice is given.
Victims cannot be penalised for ending their tenancy early
A tenant who ends their tenancy in circumstances of domestic violence is not liable to pay any compensation or additional money for the early termination. For example, 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.
Prescribed declaration form as evidence
A medical practitioner can declare that a tenant or their dependent child is a victim of domestic violence. This declaration can be used as one of the acceptable forms of evidence of domestic violence.
Only a medical practitioner can make a declaration in the prescribed form. A medical practitioner includes a General Practitioner (GP), physicians including paediatricians, psychiatrists and other specialists (i.e. surgeons, radiologists, gynaecologist etc). For a full list of medical practitioners who can provide a declaration, visit the Medical Board of Australia’s website.
For more information on the requirements to make a declaration and to access printable versions of the declaration forms, visit the Domestic violence declaration webpage.
Challenging a domestic violence termination
A landlord or any remaining co-tenant(s) may apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal) 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 cannot dispute the contents of a declaration in any Tribunal proceedings, if it is used as evidence.
Victim’s privacy and protection from discrimination
The following measures help protect the privacy of victims of domestic violence. They also ensure that a victim’s ability to secure a rental property in the future is not negatively impacted by a domestic violence termination:
- Landlords and their agents are prohibited from listing a tenant on a tenancy database if they ended a tenancy in circumstances of domestic violence
- Evidence that a tenant or their dependent child is in circumstances of domestic violence only needs to be given to the landlord or their agent and not to any remaining co-tenant(s)
- A person is prohibited from using or disclosing information from a domestic violence termination notice or from the attached evidence for any other purpose. For example, the information cannot be provided in a reference check by a property manager. Disclosure can only be made if permitted or compelled by law. A person in possession of these documents must store and dispose of them securely
- The contents of a declaration made by a medical practitioner are not reviewable by the Tribunal to ensure victims of domestic violence are not subject to cross-examination.
Rights of remaining co-tenants
After a tenant gives a domestic violence termination notice, a co-tenant who remains in the tenancy:
- may apply to the Tribunal to end their tenancy
- is entitled to a 2-week period to only pay a portion of the rent and is not required to cover the departing victim’s share. This only applies if the remaining co-tenant is not the perpetrator of domestic violence.
In addition to the above rights, the rights and responsibilities under existing tenancy laws still apply to co-tenants. For example, a remaining co-tenant may dispute the validity of a domestic violence termination notice.
Tenancy database listings
Landlords and their agents are prohibited from listing a tenant on a tenancy database if they ended their tenancy in circumstances of domestic violence.
Visit the tenancy database listings page for more information.
Removing a perpetrator of domestic violence
If a final Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) is granted that excludes a co-tenant (perpetrator) from accessing the premises, then the perpetrator’s co-tenancy will automatically end. The tenancy simply transfers to any remaining co-tenant(s) named on the agreement.
A remaining occupant who is not named on the agreement can ask the landlord or agent to have the agreement put in their name. If the landlord or agent refuses, the remaining occupant may apply to the Tribunal for an order to be recognised as a tenant under the original agreement.
If a final AVO has not been obtained or if it does not include an exclusion order and where the perpetrator is a co-tenant, another co-tenant may apply to the Tribunal to end the perpetrator’s tenancy. The Tribunal will consider the circumstances of the case when deciding whether to make an order.
If you are an occupant of social housing premises, contact the social housing provider for more information.
Changing locks or other security devices
Changing the locks or other security devices immediately can increase the safety of a tenant from domestic violence.
A tenant would usually need the landlord’s consent before locks or other security devices can be changed, unless there is a reasonable excuse to do so. It is a reasonable excuse for a tenant to change the locks immediately without the landlord’s consent, if they have a provisional, interim or final AVO which prohibits another tenant or occupant from accessing the property. A tenant can also change the locks without the landlord’s consent in an emergency, in accordance with a Tribunal order or after the tenancy of a co-tenant was terminated.
The tenant will need to provide a set of the new keys to the landlord or agent within 7 days of the locks being changed, unless agreed otherwise.
Changing the locks does not alter the tenancy agreement.
3-year statutory review
The new domestic violence laws and other related provisions will be reviewed within 3 years of commencement to ensure that they are working effectively.
Visit the NSW Legislation website to read the new laws in full:
Further advice and support
Women’s Legal Contact Line
Tel: 8745 6988
Toll free: 1800 801 501
Law Access NSW
Tel: 1300 888 529
NSW Domestic Violence Line (24/7 Community Care & Counselling)
Toll free: 1800 656 463
Rape Crisis Centre
Toll free: 1800 424 017
Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre
Tel: 9360 5388
Toll free: 1800 633 063
Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women's Legal Centre
Toll free: 1800 686 587
Another Closet (information on violence in gay and lesbian relationships)