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VIC Right to Break Lease After a Domestic Violence Threat?

Discussion in 'Property Law Forum' started by Mike Magoo, 21 September 2016.

  1. Mike Magoo

    Mike Magoo Member

    21 September 2016
    Likes Received:

    I have a friend who has a residential lease agreement with a property owner, along with two other people on the lease. All three are young adults living in a shared household. I will call them A, M and Z. My friend is Z.

    Z had an encounter with M this week, involving a perceived threat of violence from M. A was present and intervened to defuse the situation. Z believes M was hungover or perhaps had not had enough sleep.

    Z subsequently discussed with A and they agreed that M's behaviour was unacceptable - that he should move out. The following day, all three met to discuss, there was no further aggression but M denied threatening violence. A was conciliatory, and backed away from insisting that M move out. Z ended the meeting since he felt there was nothing to be gained if M would not acknowledge the behaviour was violent.

    Z subsequently reported the incident to the police, who agreed to contact M & A and discuss with them. Z also contacted the estate agent, explained the situation, and the agent agreed to contact M. Z understands the agent was likely to advise M he had to move out (I assume there is an expectation they would then recruit a replacement person onto the lease). Later, Z discussed again with A, who is now unwilling to insist M moves out.

    Z is now waiting on next steps from the estate agent. If the agent does not insist M moves out, it appears probable Z will move out, due to his fear that M will repeat the threats and possibly escalate to physical violence.

    My question is this: If Z moves out and breaks his lease agreement, does he have a legal right to do so where there is a documented domestic violence incident? (Note he does not want to move out, but he is unwilling to continue living with M, and without A's agreement to insist on M moving out, it seems likely M will stay).

    Hope this makes sense.

    My friend (Z) is very upset about the whole situation, in tears and has seen a counsellor about it. I have asked whether perhaps he just misunderstood M's grievance as a threat that M had no intentions of presenting - he pointed out that A agreed it was a real and alarming threat (hence actively stood between them to protect Z at the time).
  2. Victoria S

    Victoria S Well-Known Member

    9 April 2014
    Likes Received:
    Whose names are on the actual lease agreement? All three of them?

    Short answer to your question about whether a domestic violence incident can provide grounds to break a lease is - no. Unless the landlord compassionately agrees to let you go under the lease, you have contractual obligations which are not automatically dissolved as a result of a social / domestic issue. If Z broke his lease he would still be liable to be sued by the landlord since he has breached his contractual obligations. Social issues are for individuals to sort out. They do not have any bearing on a contract between Z and another party.
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