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01 March 2019

Housing & Property

Tenancy laws for victims of domestic violence have started

Tenancy reforms for victims of domestic violence living in a rented property started on 28 February 2019.

These laws allow a tenant to end their tenancy immediately, without penalty, if they or their dependent child are in circumstances of domestic violence.

The following information gives an overview of the laws. Or, you can refer to our specific information for:

Ending a tenancy in circumstances of domestic violence

To end their tenancy due to domestic violence, the tenant will need to give:

  • the landlord or their agent a domestic violence termination notice and attach one of the following permitted forms of evidence:
    • certificate of conviction
    • 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 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.

You can access the sample version of the domestic violence termination forms from our Forms webpage.

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, which must be in the form prescribed by the Residential Tenancies Regulation 2010. 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.

Victims cannot be penalised for ending their tenancy early

A tenant who ends their tenancy in circumstances of domestic violence will not be liable to pay any compensation or additional money for the early termination. For example, a victim will not need to pay a break fee, loss of rent, advertising and a reletting fee or an occupation fee for abandoned goods.

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 or 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 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 is 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.

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.

More information

Fair Trading regularly organises free community education seminars across NSW for tenants, real estate agents and self-managing landlords. Visit our Events register to keep up-to-date on upcoming events or to sign up for one of our webinars by registering your details below:

Visit the NSW Legislation website to read the new laws in full:

Related information

Other tenancy reforms will start at a later stage. Visit the New residential tenancy laws page for information on the full package of reforms.

Visit the Domestic violence in a rented property webpage for information on the rights of a victim of domestic violence.

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