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Protections from violence when renting

Information about the protections in place for renters who have been or are subjected to family violence when they are in rental accommodation.

Information about what a person can do if they are living in a situation where they are (or have been) victims of personal or family violence when living in rental accommodation.

There are several different safeguards in place to try to protect and support people living in (or escaping from) situations of violence in rental accommodation. There is a useful checklist in the Tenants Victoria toolkit: Tenants Victoria—Family violence protection toolkit(opens in a new window).

This page includes the following information:

Exclusion orders

If a renter has been served a family violence safety intervention order with an exclusion condition, they may be required to leave the premises if they are living with the protected person.

Where an intervention order is in place, either party can apply to terminate a rental agreement on the basis that one of the renters has been excluded from the property by virtue of the effects of those orders, that is by an exclusion condition.

See Family violence intervention orders—Exclusion order from property.

Terminating a rental agreement

A person who has suffered family or personal violence (or a party excluded from a rental property by an exclusion condition in an intervention order) can apply to VCAT for an order that:

  • terminates an existing rental agreement, or
  • terminates existing rental agreement and replaces that agreement with a new rental agreement with the person and others specified in the application.

This might be useful for example, if the person is stuck in a fixed term lease with someone who is using violence against them.

It may also be useful for a person who is not officially on the lease, but who is living there and another person in the house is using (or has used) violence against them.

VCAT must hear the matter within 3 business days of the application being made, or if this is not possible, the next available sitting day.

The applicant does not need the rental provider's permission to apply.

See s. 91V—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Where violence is against a child

An application can be made on behalf of a child by their parent or guardian if they are living with the child.

See s. 91V(5)—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Does the person need a safety order or safety notice?

No order or notice is needed for an application related to family violence, but the applicant will need some evidence of family violence. When VCAT is deciding whether to grant the order or not, they will take into account whether or not the applicant has a safety notice, family violence order, or non-local Domestic Violence Order in place.

Where the applicant is claiming that there has been personal violence from one of the residents, they will need to have a personal safety intervention order in place.

See ss. 91V, 91W, 91X—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Parties to the proceeding

Despite the fact that the rental provider's (formerly landlord's) permission is not necessary to make an application, they are one of the parties to a VCAT proceeding. Other parties are:

  • the applicant (or person on whose behalf application is made)
  • any other party to the existing rental agreement
  • any other person specified in the application.

See s. 91V(6)—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

How to prepare for the VCAT hearing

The protected person should consider:

  • getting help from a financial counsellor
  • finding someone to share the rent
  • asking their employer for a reference
  • preparing evidence to demonstrate hardship
  • taking photos of any damage to the property
  • collecting receipts
  • writing everything down.

Note: If the rental provider does not want to offer this new lease, they may join the excluded person as a party to the hearing. If this is the case similar restrictions on cross examination of the protected person will apply, as with the family violence intervention order hearing.

Protection from cross-examination

Unless leave is granted by VCAT, the victim/survivor of family or personal violence cannot be cross-examined by the perpetrator.

See s. 91Y—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

VCAT orders

When making an order VCAT must take into account whether an application for a safety notice or order has been made, and whether the order was granted and also whether an exclusion condition was made in relation to the notice or order.

See s. 91W(3)—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Termination of the rental agreement

Where the applicant has applied for an order terminating a lease, VCAT may make the order if satisfied that:

  • the person (or their child/ren) would be likely to suffer severe hardship if the agreement is not terminated
  • this hardship would be greater than that of the rental provider
  • it is reasonable (factoring in the length of any exclusion order made under a personal, non-local DVO or family violence order) and the time remaining on the existing rental agreement
  • it is reasonable to make the order, given the interests of any other residents living at the property (but not the violent renter). For example, are other renters supportive of the order being made?

VCAT retains a residual discretion about whether or not to make the orders.

See s. 91W—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Creating a new rental agreement after terminating old one

In a situation where the applicant wants the old agreement to be terminated and a new rental agreement made, in addition to the considerations listed above, VCAT must consider whether the applicant (and any other proposed renters) could reasonably be expected to comply with their duties as renter/s under a new agreement.

See s. 91W(2)(a)—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

If new rental agreement is made

Any new agreement must be made under the same terms and conditions as the old agreement. So, the rental provider cannot increase the rent. It must also end on the date that the old agreement was due to end. The new agreement starts when the old agreement ends. This date will be included in the VCAT order.

See s. 91W(4), (5), (6)—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Collecting possessions

VCAT may also make an order that the rental provider or their agent is to permit the applicant/protected person, family or personal violence victim to collect their possessions.

See s. 91W(7)—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Must not be listed on tenancy database

VCAT may make an order that prohibits the rental provider or their agent or database operator from listing information about the victim/survivor/applicant on a residential tenancy database in circumstances where a rental agreement was breached as a result of a act or circumstance of family violence experienced by the person.

See s. 91W(7)—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Who is liable for money owed under the old agreement?

Where an old agreement is terminated, VCAT may make an order specifying who is responsible for outstanding rent, any damage to the property, bills for utilities and who is entitled to get bond. Basically, this section creates an exemption to the presumption that renters are jointly and severally liable for rent.

A renter can apply to VCAT for a decision about who is liable for rent arrears. VCAT can assess the situation and make an order as to liability as to:

  • rent owed
  • damages
  • costs from utility charges.

See s. 91X—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

No compensation for termination of rental agreement

None of the parties may make a claim for compensation because of a termination of a rental agreement due to personal or family violence.

See ss. 91X, 91W—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Changing locks and adding security

Changing the locks

A rental provider must not unreasonably refuse a request to change locks. If they refuse, a renter can seek an order from VCAT.

If a renter has been excluded from rented premises because of an exclusion order in an intervention order, safety notice or recognised non-local domestic violence order and a protected person under that order or notice is also living in the rented premises, the protected person may change any external locks on a door or windows, including a master key system, even if that person is not a party to the residential agreement.

There is no need for VCAT to have made an order to end the residential rental agreement for this to be done.

As soon as they have changed the locks, they must provide a copy to the rental provider or their agent of the new keys and also a certified extract of the notice or order that excludes the other renter. They do not have to give new keys to the violent perpetrator.

The rental provider or agent must not give copies of the new keys to the excluded person, while the order or notice remains in place. To do this, is a breach of a duty provision and may be dealt with as a breach.

See ss. 70, 70A, 70B, 71, 91W—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Cost of changing locks

A protected person may apply to the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) for this as a 'safety related expense'. The matter must have been reported to police. VOCAT could grant an interim award of up to $1,000 provided a copy of the police report and a copy of the family violence application or order is provided.

The expense must be actually and reasonably incurred, or reasonably likely to be incurred as a direct result of the violence.

See s. 8(2)(e), 56—Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic).

Adding modifications necessary for security

A renter who is needs to have security measures added to their rental property that are necessary to ensure their safety must ask the rental provider before they make the modifications. The rental provider must not refuse if the person asking for the modifications (or their child) has been subjected to violence by another party to the rental agreement. There is no need for the applicant to have an intervention order or safety notice to do this.

If the renter refuses, the person can apply to VCAT for an order.

See ss. 64(1B)(f), 70—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Apportioning debt and bond refunds

If VCAT is hearing an application for the repayment of bond where there is more than one person in the rental agreement, VCAT may order that liability for any damage to the rental property, including any unpaid rent be paid by a renter who has committed personal or family violence to another renter.

VCAT may also exclude any portion of the bond that is due to the renter who experienced the violence from the total amount of bond available to compensate the rental provider for loss or damage.

VCAT must be satisfied that one of the renters is a victim or family violence or personal violence. It is not necessary that there be any safety notice or order in place. There is no need for the perpetrator to have been convicted of an offence. However, VCAT will need enough evidence to be satisfied that there has been personal or family violence by one of the renters.

See s. 420A—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

If renter a victim of violence and perpetrator not a renter

If VCAT is hearing an application for repayment of a bond, it may also make an order that a renter who is a victim of family or personal violence is not liable for any loss or damage caused to the property where the person who committed the violence is not named on the rental agreement.

In these matters VCAT must be satisfied that:

  • the loss or damage was caused by the actions of the alleged perpetrator of family or personal violence, and
  • a family violence safety notice, family violence intervention order, recognised non-local domestic violence order or a personal safety intervention order is in place.

See s. 420B—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Challenging a notice to vacate

A renter who is a victim of family or personal violence may apply to VCAT to challenge a notice to vacate issued on the grounds of:

  • the damage was caused by the alleged perpetrator of the family or personal violence, and
  • there is a family violence safety notice, family violence order, non-local domestic violence order or personal safety order in place.
  • damage to property—91ZI
  • danger to a person—91ZJ
  • making threats or intimidation—91ZK
  • failing to comply with an order—91ZO
  • successive breaches—91ZP
  • use of premises for illegal purposes—91ZQ, or
  • drug related conduct in public housing—91ZR

If the breach or notice to vacate was given due to acts of the person who used that violence on the renter. The renter must apply to VCAT within 30 days of getting the notice. However, note that some of these notices to vacate, such as danger are effective immediately. Under these circumstances, the person will need to apply quickly.

VCAT may order that the notice is invalid if satisfied that the applicant has been or is subjected to violence and that the actions leading to the breach were due to an act by the person who is using that violence against the applicant.

However, note that all possession order hearings need to make an assessment as to whether it is reasonable and proportionate to make the order. This would include where evidence can be adduced of family or personal violence as a consideration. This may provide some protection for a victim even if they did not have a chance to apply to challenge the notice to vacate.

See ss. 91ZZU, 91ZZV—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Renter may ask for appointment for inspections

A protected person (that is a person who has a safety notice, intervention order or non-local Domestic Violence Order in place) can ask for inspections to be made by appointment.

See s. 86(2A)(b)—Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

More information

Legislation

Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)

  • s. 64(1B)(f)—modifications to property due to violence
  • s. 70A—changing locks in family or personal violence situations
  • s. 70B—locks for rental premises where an order has been made under 91W
  • s. 71—application to change locks without consent from rental provider
  • s. 86—grounds for entry into rented premises
  • s. 233A—application for a new tenancy agreement because of family violence intervention order
  • s. 91V—application for termination or new rental agreement because of personal or family violence
  • s. 91W—VCAT orders
  • s. 91X—VCAT may determine a party's liability under a terminated rental agreement
  • s. 91Y—prohibition on cross-examination of victim by perpetrator
  • s. 91ZJ—danger
  • s. 91ZK—threats and intimidation
  • Part 2, Division 9, Sub-division 3—Termination and new residential rental agreements because of family violence or personal violence
    • s. 91ZZU—renter may challenge notice to vacate
    • s. 91ZZV—what VCAT can order
  • s. 420A—order by VCAT if renter victim of family or personal violence
  • s. 420B—order by VCAT in circumstances of family or personal violence

See Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 (Vic)

  • r. 92—stipulates Form 24 to be the form to use by manager to require a person to leave immediately for serious violence
  • Schedule 1, Form 24—Notice to leave to resident of managed premises or resident's visitor

See Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic)

  • s. 8(2)(e)—assistance available for primary victims includes safety-related expenses
  • s. 56—interim awards

See Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Tenants Victoria

This specialist community legal centre has information for renters and a toolkit designed to support workers who assist renters faced with violence while they are renting.

See:

Consumer Affairs Victoria

Consumer Affairs Victoria has information for renters where there is family or personal violence.

See Consumer Affairs Victoria—Family violence—information for renters and rental providers(opens in a new window).

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal

VCAT has a specialiset family violence worker who may be able to assist people who need support filing their applications to VCAT.

See VCAT—Family violence support(opens in a new window).

Updated