Domestic violence victims should be able to terminate their leases immediately if they are at risk of further abuse according to a new Griffith University study.
As part of her Honours thesis, law student Bianca Fernandez examined the consequences for victims of domestic and family violence when they are forced to terminate a lease in Queensland to escape abuse.
“Currently a victim must apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a termination order and remain on the premises before they are allowed to terminate their lease,’’ she says.
“If a victim terminates their lease without the requisite termination order she remains legally liable for the rental property. This means if the property is damaged or the perpetrator does not pay the rent, the victim is liable to compensate the landlord.
“Additionally, she could be listed on a tenancy database as an unsuitable tenant for breaching her tenancy agreement meaning it will be very difficult for her to rent a subsequent property.”
As there is no published information in Queensland on this topic, Bianca compared Queensland law with the NSW tenancy regime. The key difference between the two regimes is the elimination of an application process. Provided the NSW tenant has a final apprehended violence order with an exclusion order, she is permitted to terminate her lease with 14 days notice.
Bianca extrapolated data submitted to a recent 2016 NSW statutory inquiry to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the Queensland regime.
She found several organisations were in consensus that protective mechanisms for domestic and family violence victims need to take effect immediately. This is not possible in Queensland, with victims required to adhere to a rigorous application process.
“As they stand, Queensland tenancy laws exacerbate inequality and expose domestic violence victims to sustained financial hardship.
“The law should and can be reformed in such a way to balance the rights of landlords and property owners whilst facilitating a seamless exit from an abusive environment for victims of domestic and family violence victims.”
Bianca presented her findings at the University of Technology Sydney National Law Honours Student Conference on December 2 2017.
She hopes her findings will expose the ineffectiveness of the current operation of the QLD tenancy regime and highlight the dire need for reform.
“Without reform, victims will be forced to remain in unsafe environments, allowing perpetrators and the law to remain unaccountable.”