Break Lease because of Domestic Violence in WA

Can You ‘Break Lease’ Because of Domestic Violence in WA?

The term ‘Break Lease’ is used to explain when a tenant who has signed a fixed term residential tenancy agreement decides that they no longer want to live at the property. Under current WA residential tenancy laws, it’s not very clear on what the tenant’s liabilities are in a break lease situation. In addition, there are no special provisions for people fleeing a domestic violence situation.

Current WA Break Lease Laws

Usually the Lessor is entitled to not be out of pocket if the tenant ‘breaks lease’. This means the tenant may be required to pay full rent until the property is re-let and they may be required to pay any other reasonable costs such as advertising and other management costs.

In cases where the tenant needs to ‘break lease’ and can no longer afford to pay rent on two properties, they may need to apply to the Court to terminate the lease under hardship.

In cases of domestic violence, if the victim has a joint tenancy agreement with the perpetrator, they can apply to the Court to terminate the lease under hardship in the same manner. The Court will decide whether the lease should be terminated and what compensation, if any, the tenant would need to pay the landlord.

Proposed Legislative Changes

In late 2017, amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act were proposed to be introduced to Parliament in 2018. The amendments have the intent to support people suffering in a violent relationship so that they do not suffer further from inflexible tenancy laws.

The proposed changes allow the victim of domestic violence to:

  • Be able to terminate a tenancy agreement by providing evidence of domestic violence, including a restraining order or letter from a doctor or other medical professional.
  • Deal directly with the landlord or property manager without the consent of the perpetrator.
  • Apply to the Court to have the perpetrator’s name removed from the tenancy agreement.
  • Have the locks changed without permission from the landlord.
  • Be relieved of any costs associated with any property damage, unpaid rent or bond issues arising out of domestic violence.

*Current as of March 2018 – The proposed changes have not yet been enacted.

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