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Family Violence in a Tenancy

This information outlines your options if you are living in a rental property and experiencing family violence.

The first priority is personal safety and support for those experiencing Family Violence.

In an emergency, call 000

If you are living in a rental property and experiencing family violence by a tenant, you can apply for an intervention order at your local Magistrates’ Court to exclude that tenant from the property. If the order is granted, you become a ‘protected person’ under that order

Change the Locks

It is advisable to contact your Property Manager if you need to make alterations to the property for your own safety. You must obtain permission to change the locks of a rental property, which cannot be unreasonably withheld. Under the Residential Tenancies Act, you must provide a key to the Landlord or Agent, as well as other tenants, except in the following circumstances

You can change the locks if a tenant has been excluded from the rental property under a:
• family violence safety notice (issued by the police)
• family violence intervention order (issued by a court), or
• personal safety intervention order (issued by a court)
and you live at the property and are protected under that notice or order.

To change the locks, you must:
• live at the property (you do not have to be on the lease)
• pay for the locks to be changed — the Victims Support Agency (1800 819 817) can provide help and advice
• give a key for any new lock to the landlord and other tenants in the property (except the excluded tenant)
• give a copy of the notice or order (or a certified extract of it) to the landlord.
Once the landlord has a copy of the notice or order, they cannot give the excluded tenant a key for any new lock, as long as that tenant is excluded from the property under the notice or order

Change the lease

You can also apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to change the lease if a tenant has been excluded from the rental property under a:
• family violence intervention order, or
• personal safety intervention order
and you live at the property and are protected under that order.

If you want to stay

If you want to stay in the property without the excluded tenant, you can apply to VCAT to end the existing lease and start a new lease with the landlord with the same conditions and rent. The new lease would be for the remaining lease period. For example, if you had five months left on your existing 12-month lease, the new lease will be for five months.
You can apply for a new lease if:
• the intervention order against the excluded tenant is a final order made by the court – i.e. not an interim order
• you live at the property (you do not need to be listed on the existing lease).
VCAT can decide how the bond (if any) will be refunded, and who will be responsible  for paying any outstanding expenses on the existing lease (e.g. repairs or bills).
If the landlord or property manager arranges a property inspection during the VCAT proceedings, the excluded tenant can send someone to represent them at the inspection.

Your Property Manager cannot apply to VCAT on your behalf.

VCAT Applicants entitled to a full fee waiver

You are entitled to a full fee waiver if you are:

  • represented by Victoria Legal Aid; a community legal centre; a provider under the Tenancy Assistance Advocacy program; or another recognised provider who has deemed you eligible through a means test – you must provide a letter from the organisation representing you
  • in a prison or other public institution – you must provide evidence of your status such as your Criminal Record Number
  • under 18 years of age – you must provide a copy of your birth certificate, passport, learner’s permit or other proof of age
  • a protected person or an affected family member who is the applicant in a residential tenancies case arising from family violence.

If you want to leave the tenancy

If you are a protected person under an intervention order and want to leave the property to ensure your safety or the safety of your children, you can apply to VCAT to end the lease early.
VCAT can decide:
• if the severe hardship you would experience (if the lease continued) would be greater than any hardship the landlord would suffer if the lease ended early
• if the landlord needs to be compensated due to the lease ending early.
The excluded tenant can also apply to VCAT to end the lease early on severe hardship grounds, if they are listed as a tenant on the lease, and are worried about their responsibilities under the lease.

Your Property Manager cannot apply to VCAT to end the lease early on your behalf. In these situations, the only options available to Property Managers to end a lease would be either Abandonmentor if the rent falls behind. Both of these scenarios would result in negative Tenant History and is therefore best avoided if at all possible.

Consumer Affairs – Goods left behind by Tenants

Tenant’s Union of Victoria Family Violence Protection Tenancy Kit  – Applying to VCAT

VCAT Application by a Protected Persons Form

Department of Justice Family Violence

Victoria Legal Aid – Family Violence Safety Notices

1300 792 387

For more information regarding tenancies, refer to Consumer Affairs website Family Violence Resources