Tenancy law changes: What do they mean for domestic abuse victims?

New rules for renters include a change aimed at making it easier for victims of domestic abuse to change their circumstances.

But will it help?

Major changes to the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 1986 have to come into effect by August 11 at the latest, however they can be brought into force before then.

Under the act, victims will only need to give landlords two days’ notice, with evidence, to withdraw from a tenancy.

Tauranga Women’s Refuge manager Hazel Hape said the law change, when used in conjunction with specialist services such as Women’s Refuge, had the potential to work.

However, terminating tenancy was usually an “absolute last resort”, particularly during a housing crisis, she said.

“Many renters impacted by family violence just want the violence and abuse to stop, they want support for themselves and people who are supposed to love them but are being perpetrators of family violence.

“Women we support do not necessarily want to terminate their tenancy. They generally want to remain in their homes, familiar places, schools, workplaces and community with their children and families and simply want to be safe,” Hape said.

Rotorua Rentals director Pauline Evans said the new legislation was “a tricky one”.

“You have a moral responsibility that you don’t want anyone to be in harm’s way,” she said.

“My problem with this legislation is it says a tenant who is a victim can give two days’ notice to vacate a property, with evidence. What does that evidence look like and do I really want to subject myself and my staff to what could be a long tedious report on all the abuse that’s been going on?

“We’re not really skilled or trained in that area.”

Another part of the act says tenants remaining after a renter’s withdrawal will be able to pay reduced rent for two weeks.

Evans felt this rewarded the behaviour of abusers and raised questions as to where the tenant who terminated their tenancy would go.

“They’re trying to say they’re obviously by themselves when they possibly did have another income so they’ve got to sort themselves out, I kind of get that.

“On the other hand, I’m worried. Am I being left with someone who has proven to be violent and has perhaps been doing so over a number of years? What are they going to take it out on now?

“I’m a bit hesitant about it all, I don’t think it has been thought through as well as it could have been and I think the legislation is very loose.”

Evans said she would like to see more consultation from Government with landlords and rental owners when making such legislation.

“I don’t think a lot of victims will actually come forward because they don’t want to go because they have nowhere to go to. I don’t see an avalanche of these people coming to us anyway, especially if they have to prove they have been a victim of domestic violence.

“It just means we have to get better at what we do, that’s the bottom line and we’re up for the challenge.”

Tauranga Rentals owner Dan Lusby said any law change that helped vulnerable people in the community was a good thing.

“None of our landlords would have a problem with it,” he said.

“As professional property managers, we try to get to know our tenants and build rapport with them so we know what’s going on in their lives. It’s not just putting them in a house and leaving them to it.

“We have a fair idea of what’s going on in most households anyway. For something bad to happen like [domestic abuse], we’d support our tenant every way we could. If that meant them leaving the property, that would be fine.”

In terms of tenants providing evidence of abuse, Lusby said it always paid to have something in writing from police or social service agencies.

“If a social service rang up and said we need to get this person out of their current situation, we’d take that on board anyway.”

Rotorua police area commander Inspector Phil Taikato said police were supportive of any measure which helped support victims of abuse.

“In this case the new tenancy act appears, on the face of it, to provide that ability for tenants who are experiencing abuse from family violence to be able to move quickly and seek safety elsewhere.

“This is something that we would be supportive of,” he said.

Source: Read Full Article