Homeless Law and safe steps team up to call for fairer tenancy laws

29 June 2016
A joint submission to help women dealing with bad tenancy law

Justice Connect Homeless Law and safe steps Family Violence Response Centre have collaborated on a joint submission to the Victorian Government as part of the ongoing review of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic) (RTA).

Through the work of its Women’s Homelessness Prevention Project (WHPP), Homeless Law has assisted 102 women with 125 children in their care, 88% of whom have experienced family violence in the past 10 years.

As Victoria’s 24/7 state-wide central family violence responder, safe steps fields over 55,000 calls per year and provides support, accommodation, advocacy and referrals throughout Victoria and nationally, including to women and children experiencing or at risk of homelessness as a result of family violence they have experienced.

Homeless Law and safe steps see victims of family violence inadequately protected in relation to their tenancy rights, burdened with debts as a result of damage or arrears attributable to the perpetrator and, consequently, at risk of homelessness. Homeless Law and safe steps are therefore uniquely placed to advocate for changes to Victoria’s current tenancy laws that unfairly impact on victims of family violence. 

The joint submission responds to the third of six RTA review issues papers, titled ‘Rights and Responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants’, and draws on Homeless Law and safe steps’ collective expertise, as well as the stories and experiences of the clients they assist.

The submission makes 15 recommendations to better support victims of family violence and other vulnerable people living in rented premises, including:

  • Clear legal mechanisms to apportion liability for damage and rent arrears between co-tenants where the tenancy has been affected by family violence;
  • A simpler and more accessible mechanism for victims of family violence to take over a lease where family violence has occurred and it is not safe for a perpetrator to continue residing there;
  • Broader discretion in VCAT decision making and better resources for landlords and agents to avoid preventable rent arrears evictions into homelessness;
  • A requirement to provide tenants with written rental references, including victims of family violence who are not responsible for any breaches, and a clear pathway for victims of family violence to have negative tenancy database entries removed;
  • Increased use of the early lease termination provisions for victims of family violence, along with penalties for landlords and agents who mislead tenants about their right to apply for early lease termination.

You can read the full joint submission by clicking here.

For more information about safe steps Family Violence Response Centre, click here.

PDF iconJustice Connect + safe steps - RTA submission

For more information about the WHPP, including family violence, housing debts and homelessness, see Twelve Months of Keeping Women Housed, the twelve-month WHPP report available here.

If you or a client could benefit from the services of the WHPP please contact us on 1800 606 313.