Domestic Violence and Residential Tenancies (NT)
Updated on Nov 06, 2022 • 4 min read • 354 views • Copy Link
Domestic Violence and Residential Tenancies (NT)
When a person is living in a rental property and is the victim of domestic violence, their tenancy may be affected. A person may need to terminate a tenancy or make changes to a residential lease because they are experiencing domestic violence. This page deals with the legal implications of domestic violence during a tenancy in the Northern Territory.
What is domestic violence?
Section 5 of the Domestic Violence Protection Act 2007 defines domestic violence as causing harm, damaging property, intimidation, stalking and economic abuse towards a person that you are in a domestic relationship with.
Under Section 9 of the Domestic Violence Protection Act a domestic relationship includes the following:
- Partners and spouses
- Former partners and spouses
- Family members
- A person who lives with the other person such as a flatmate
- A person who lives with a family member of a person
- A person in a carer relationship
Talk to the landlord
If a tenant is experiencing domestic violence that means they need to end their tenancy, they should first speak to their landlord or agent about the situation and ask if they can end the lease early. If the landlord or agent is aware of the situation, they may be open to ending the lease.
Terminating a lease because of domestic violence
The Residential Tenancies Act 1999 does not contain any specific reference to domestic violence. It does, however, contain a provision that allows a tenant to apply to terminate a lease on the basis of hardship.
Section 99 states that the Tribunal may terminate a tenancy if satisfied that continuing it would cause undue hardship to either the landlord or the tenant and that the circumstances giving rise to the hardship did not exist prior to entering into the lease.
If a person applies to the Tribunal under this section, they should include as much evidence of the domestic violence as possible.
This may include:
- Copies of reports made to police
- Copies of Domestic Violence Orders
- Support letters from people or organisations that are aware of the situation
- Witness statements from anyone who has witnessed the violence
Excluding the perpetrator from the property
A person can have another person excluded from a property on the basis on domestic violence in the NT. This can be done when the court makes a Domestic Violence Order.
When a court makes a DVO, it may include a premises access order. A premises access order is an order under section 22 of the Domestic and Family Violence Act that requires the defendant to vacate a property or restrains them from entering a property.
When a premises access order is made, the court may also order the termination of the tenancy agreement (section 23, Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007). The court may also order that a new tenancy agreement be made for the benefit of the protected person.
The court may make these orders only if it is satisfied that the relationship between the parties has broken down permanently and there is no reasonable likelihood of them living in the property free from domestic violence. The protected person must be able to comply with the replacement tenancy agreement.
Can I change the locks?
Under section 53 of the Residential Tenancies Act, a tenant must not change the locks of a rental property unless they have a reasonable excuse, or unless they have the landlord’s permission. A criminal penalty of a fine of up to 100 penalty units applies for doing so.
If you have experienced domestic violence and feel the need to change the locks of your rental property to keep yourself safe, you should seek permission from the landlord if there is an opportunity to do so. If you feel you are in immediate danger and need to change the locks straight away, be aware that you may be required to produce evidence of the threat you were facing in order to avoid being fined.
Damage caused by domestic violence
If damage is caused to a rental property by an act of domestic violence, the owner or agent should be informed of the circumstances and provided with as much evidence of what happened as possible.
If a dispute arises about who is liable to pay for damage to the property, an application to NTCAT may need to be made.
If the perpetrator of domestic violence is found guilty of causing damage to property, the court may make a restitution order requiring them to pay the cost of the damage. If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.
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