• Changes to RTA required to support victims of family violence


    Author: REIWA President Hayden Groves

    photo-domestic-violence-victimIn December, Ministers Bill Johnston and Simone McGurk held a media conference at REIWA to announce Cabinet’s decision to approve amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act, to better support victims of family violence.

    We all know domestic violence is a problem in our society and we all have a responsibility to help eradicate it and minimise its impact on victims.

    What will these amendments entail?

    These amendments will ensure the victim has better protection within the context of a residential tenancy, giving them the choice of outcome based on their individual circumstances.

    This would include assistance to abruptly end their tenancy (if required), the ability to liaise directly with the landlord or property manager so they don’t have to seek the perpetrator’s consent on tenancy related matters and allowing them to apply to the Court to have the perpetrator’s name removed from the tenancy agreement.

    REIWA supports the Government’s efforts to amend the Act to help victims of family violence. It is important measures are put in place to help, instead of punish, victims.

    The impact of domestic violence

    To get an understanding of how deep this problem runs, a report by the Western Australian Ombudsman into issues associated with violence restraining orders found domestic assaults increased 40 per cent between November 2014 and November 2015.

    This figure is alarming, but sadly, doesn’t come close to telling the full story, with as few as 20 per cent of total victims willing to report an incident.

    Victims of family violence suffer significant hardships when they are forced to leave a rental home. They are at risk of homelessness, loss of employment opportunities and disruption to their children’s education.

    They also frequently carry the financial burden when a tenancy ends, such as paying unpaid bills they are not wholly responsible for.

    What does this mean for landlords?

    It’s also worth remembering that family violence, which occurs in a rental property, can also significantly impact the owner of the property.

    For instance, investors may have to deal with the loss of income, damage to their rental property, unpaid rent and difficulties in accessing security bonds, so with these reforms come benefits for landlords too.

    Of course, any changes to the Act must be carefully considered to ensure landlords are not adversely impacted. Contrary to what some may believe, the vast majority of WA landlords are not exceptionally wealthy business-folk with a hefty investment portfolio. They are ‘mum and dad’ types who use property investment as a means to secure their future.

    It is important landlords are not adversely affected by these amendments. REIWA looks forward to working with the Government to help progress these reforms, while ensuring appropriate safeguards are in place to maintain a supportive environment for property investment.