Proposed safeguards to new RTA amendments beneficial for landlords and victims

By Damian Collins REIWA President

Last December the WA Government announced Cabinet’s decision to amend the Residential Tenancies Act to better support victims of family violence.

REIWA supports the Government’s efforts to amend the Act. Family violence is a growing issue in our community and we all have a responsibility to help eradicate it and ensure measures are put in place to assist victims instead of punish them.

While REIWA is in full support of introducing measures to ensure victims of family violence are not unreasonably affected by the residential tenancy system, we also believe it’s important to ensure safeguards are in place to protect the rights of landlords and property owners from the new legislation being utilised without just cause.

Following collaboration with the WA Government and various stakeholder groups, REIWA has requested and expects to secure essential safeguards which will help victims of family violence remove themselves from unsafe situations more easily, while simultaneously preventing its misuse by people who are not genuine victims of family violence.

We are pleased the WA Government listened to the concerns of the real estate industry and have committed to including a declaration, to be signed by the tenant, in the prescribed forms as part of this Bill. This means in cases where there has been no criminal charges laid, the victim will sign a declaration to reaffirm their claims, removing the need to go to court. This will also assist the prescribed professionals when completing the report in confidence.

The declaration also carries significant penalties should the claimant be found to be making false statements. This will act as a hefty deterrent against the misuse of this legislation, which is designed to ensure only genuine victims of family violence are able to prematurely terminate a residential lease.

This is a strong outcome for both parties and REIWA welcomes this as an important step in the process of reducing the burdens of the residential tenancy system on victims of family violence while also protecting the rights of property owners.

The Residential Tenancies Act (Family Violence) Amendment Bill 2018 is currently before the Legislative Committee who will pass its results to the Upper House on 22nd November 2018, with expectations that the Bill will be introduced by the end of this year.

REIWA recommends that all investment property owners ensure that they are fully aware of the upcoming changes and what it could mean for them. It is also imperative to make sure you discuss your landlord insurance policy with your insurer to see if they caver any loss of rental income, should a family violence situation arise.

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