Domestic and family violence protections

6 Dec 2021

Everyone deserves to feel safe at home, and domestic and family violence is never acceptable.  

Domestic and family violence (DFV) occurs when one person in an intimate personal, family or informal carer relationship uses violence or abuse to maintain power and control over the other person. 

Living with DFV can have a devastating impact on a person’s autonomy, independence, wellbeing and safety. 

In this episode with RTA's Sam Galer, we'll talk about the updated renting laws that may be able to help someone who is experiencing DFV in a rental property to leave the situation quickly, or feel safer in their home. 

Transcript

Host - Belinda Heit – Communication and Education – RTA 

Guest – Sam Galer – Customer Experience - RTA 

 

Host: Welcome to the Talking Tenancies podcast, brought to you by the Residential Tenancies Authority.  I’m your host, Belinda Heit. Join me as we explore everything you need to know about renting in Queensland, with experts from the RTA and industry. We're here to help make renting work for everyone. 

Host: Everyone deserves to feel safe at home and domestic and family violence is never acceptable. Domestic and family violence, otherwise known as DFV, occurs when one person is in an intimate, personal, family or informal carer relationship, uses violence or abuse to maintain power and control over the other person. Living with DFV can have a devastating impact on a person's autonomy, independence, wellbeing, and safety. In this episode, we'll talk about the updated renting laws that may be able to help someone who is experiencing DFV in a rental property to leave the situation quickly or feel safer in their home. Today's expert from the RTA is Sam Galer from Customer Experience.  Welcome, Sam. 

Guest: Thank you very much. 

Host: Now, can you tell us about your role at the RTA and what you're responsible for? 

Guest: Yes certainly. My role at the RTA, I’m currently the Acting Manager for Customer Experience, looking after the Contact Centre and Dispute Resolution teams. 

Host: Excellent, and people may recognise your voice because you're back by popular demand. Now we know that on the 20th of October 2021, the Housing Legislation Amendment Bill was assented to amend the RTRA Act 2008, which includes further domestic and family violence provisions for the Queensland renting community. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? 

Guest: Yeah, absolutely. So, when the Housing Legislation Amendment Bill was assented, it meant that the Bill was signed off by the Governor in Council, and so it officially became law. What's important to remember is, although the Bill became law on 20th of October, not all changes from that Bill are in effect immediately. The remaining reforms will take place in multiple stages over a three-year period to allow the sector time to prepare for, understand, and adopt the changes. Currently, only the domestic and family violence provisions have commenced. 

Host: That's correct, now let's dive straight in. If I'm a tenant renting a property, what do these changes to the DFV protections mean to me? 

Guest: The DFV provisions in the tenancy legislation help you if you’re experiencing domestic and family violence to either remain in the property safely or to leave the property altogether. We’ll talk through the options and processes for each one. The first option is if you want to leave the property all together, you must end your interest in the tenancy and give seven days' notice and you can do that by completing the new Notice ending tenancy interest, which is Form 20, supported by relevant evidence. All approved supporting evidence options are listed on the form. You can choose to give a copy of the supporting evidence, or you can show the supporting evidence to the property manager or owner.  Now, after you provide that notice to your property manager or owner and you've given or shown them the supporting evidence, you can leave immediately, but you are responsible for paying the rent until the end of the seven day notice period. 

You won't be responsible for costs associated with ending the tenancy agreement or interest for goods left behind, or for re-letting the premises - the costs involved with those. You're not required to repair or compensate the property manager or owner for damage to the premises or inclusions caused by an act of domestic and family violence that you have experienced. What you will still be responsible for though is other costs associated with breaching the terms of the tenancy agreement. So, as an example there, any damage from a pet or rent arrears. After you leave the property, you can request your bond contribution to be refunded by completing a new form, that's the Form 4a Bond refund for persons experiencing domestic and family violence

Now the second option is if you want to stay. Provisions under the Queensland tenancy laws have been updated to increase your safety and security in this situation. The existing provision of applying to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which is QCAT, for an order to be recognised as a tenant or co-tenant under the agreement continues. 

New provisions allow the tenant experiencing DFV to change the locks at the premises without the property manager or owners consent, as long as these other conditions are met. This includes engaging a qualified locksmith or tradesperson, providing a copy of the new key or access code to the property manager or owner, unless they agree it's not necessary, or if QCAT orders otherwise, you're also complying with body corporate laws or bylaws that apply to the premises. If you do give the new key or the access code for the new lock to your property manager or owner, they must not give that to anyone else without your agreement or a sufficient reason, and there are penalties that apply if they don't follow this rule. In all cases, anyone experiencing domestic and family violence can apply to the Magistrates Court for a domestic violence order to keep them safe. This domestic violence order comes in the form of a protection order, or a temporary protection order, which can be made by the Court to stop threats or acts of DFV against you. You can find more information about these on the Queensland Courts website

Host: Yeah, that's some really great clarification there Sam, thank you for that. And just also to note those forms, those new forms that we've now got available, are available from our website. Now I've got a scenario for you Sam. If I'm a tenant who's experiencing DFV in a rental property that I share with other tenants, how will my confidentiality be secured when I need to potentially leave the property quickly? I want to get my portion of the bond back and not have others know immediately that I'm leaving or what my forwarding address is. 

Guest: Yeah, confidentiality obviously needs to be taken really seriously in these situations, and particularly when there are other people involved in the tenancy. Under all circumstances, after you provide the notice ending tenancy interest, supported by relevant evidence to your property manager or owner, they must not disclose the supporting evidence to anyone, unless in specific permitted circumstances outlined in the RTRA Act. There are penalties that apply if this rule is not followed. Now, as a tenant, you are also not required to provide your forwarding address when you end your interest in the tenancy due to domestic and family violence. If there are other tenants involved in the same tenancy, there are legislative processes that a property manager/owner needs to follow to inform the remaining tenants about your interest in the tenancy ending, but they need to allow sufficient time for you to safely leave the premises, whether or not the remaining tenant is the alleged perpetrator.

So all the time frames here work in seven-day blocks, so bear with me while I try and make this as clear as possible. So, let's say, as an example, you provide the notice ending tenancy interest to the property manager or owner on the 1st of the month. Within the next seven days, on or before the 8th, the property manager/owner have to tell you when they will be telling the other remaining tenants your interest in the tenancy has ended. At the end of this first seven-day block, which is midnight on the 8th, if you have left the property, your interest in the tenancy is considered to have formally ended. In the second seven-day block, so from the 9th to the 15th, this is the minimum waiting period for the property manager or owner before they can give a continuing interest notice, that informs other tenants that your interest in the tenancy has ended. So, this means that the property manager or owner cannot give a continuing interest notice in those first two seven-day blocks. Within the third seven-day block, so we're talking from the 16th to the 22nd, the property manager or owner must then provide the remaining tenants with that continuing interest notice. This notice tells the other tenants that you have ended your interest in the tenancy, the agreement continues on the same terms for them, and if they are required to top up the bond, how much, and by when that payment needs to be made. Be aware that if the person who is violent towards you is one of the remaining tenants, they will also receive a Continuing interest notice. In terms of the bond refund process, when you apply for your bond or bond contribution to be refunded using that Form 4a, the RTA will only liaise with you and the property manager or owner. We will not contact or require confirmation or agreement from any other bond contributors or the bond refund. 

Host: Ah, that's really useful. So then, on the other hand, if I'm the managing party for the rental property, how do these changes affect the way a property is managed? 

Guest: Yeah, so the processes have changed a little bit and it's crucial that property managers and owners really understand their obligations and the time frames involved. Within seven days of receiving a Notice ending tenancy interest, supported by that relevant evidence, such as a protection order or a Domestic and family violence report, the managing party must tell the tenant who is leaving two key pieces of information.

So number one, whether they accept the notice and evidence, or if they intend to make an urgent application to Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to have the notice set aside because it does not comply with the requirements set out in the Act. The second key piece of information is when, so what day they will be telling any remaining tenants on that same agreement that one of the tenants has ended their interest in the tenancy and that the tenancy agreement will continue on the same terms for them. So remember, the managing party must wait at least seven days after the tenants’ interest ends before they can issue that Continuing interest notice to the remaining tenants if any and then just referencing the same example that we used before.

If a tenant gives notice on the 1st as we discussed previously, the tenants’ interest will end at midnight of the 8th, if they have vacated the premises and the managing party then needs to wait a minimum of seven days, so until the 15th, before they can inform the remaining tenants by providing them each with a continuing interest notice. We do have a visual aid for these time frames in our fact sheet and on relevant pages of our website just to make sure that managing parties can get these really important details right. 

Host: Yeah, that can get a bit confusing and that little matrix have we've put together is really helpful. 

Guest: Absolutely. In terms of requesting a refund of the tenants bond contribution, you'll need to use a Form 4a, so the bond refund for persons experiencing DFV. The fastest way to obtain a refund is to submit an agreed form, so that's where both the tenant and the managing party has signed the refund form. If only one party has signed that form, the other party will receive a notice of claim and they then have 14 days to dispute the refund. So again, the most important thing to note here is that the RTA will only liaise with the tenant and the managing party when a Form 4a is submitted. No other bond contributors will be contacted or notified. If the tenant experiencing DFV wants to stay in the premises, they can change the locks at the premises under the legislation, the tenant must give you a copy of the new key or access code, unless you agree it's not necessary, or if QCAT orders otherwise. You, as a managing party, must not give the new key or access code to anyone else without the tenant's agreement or a reasonable excuse -, penalties can apply here. 

Host: So we now provide a suite of forms to support these new changes as we were mentioning earlier. And in addition to this, there's some fact sheets that are also available to cover those frequently asked questions. So, if we need to get a hold of those, where can we find those and the relevant resources if we need them? 

Guest: So you can find further details about the new DFV protections that have commenced on our website, that’s rta.qld.gov.au. You'll also be able to find the new forms and resources we've mentioned today on our website to guide you through the processes. As a quick recap, the new forms and resources include: 

Now, if you would like to get monthly updates on the latest news in the Queensland rental sector you can also sign up to receive our RTA news every month on our website. 

Host: Yes, and there's always some interesting info in that newsletter, so you can sign up through the website. Now, if someone does find themselves in a situation where they're experiencing DFV and they need support, where can they go? 

Guest: Yeah, really, really important information. If you have been harmed or you've been involved in a violent incident or if you're in imminent danger, definitely call 000 for an emergency response, in the first instance. For more targeted domestic and family violence support, you can call the DV Connect Women’s line on 1800 811 811. That's 24 hours a day, 7 days a week phone line and it helps women and children remain safe and can also then refer them to other services. DV Connect also has a Men's line on 1800 600 636 to help men affected by DFV and also to provide referrals where necessary. 

And there's also the national service 1800 RESPECT. So that is 1800 737 732. And that's 24 hours a day, 7 days a week again, a national service providing crisis and trauma counseling to people affected by DFV. 

Host: Yeah, some really useful information there. Thanks Sam, for helping us to get a greater understanding of the new domestic and family violence protections now in place for the Queensland renting community. 

Guest: Thank you, Belinda. 

Host: Thank you for listening to the Talking Tendencies podcast. For more information about the Residential Tenancies Authority, visit rta.qld.gov.au. 

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