Darwin Community Legal Service

DFV and Tenancy

What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic and family violence includes behaviour or threats that aim to control a person by causing fear or threatening their safety. The law in Australia treats women and men equally. Everyone has the right to experience positive and safe relationships with their families, friends and loved ones. Violence is never okay. No-one should accept being treated badly or harmed.

Domestic and family violence can include many different things both physical, verbal and emotional. Some examples include:

  • hitting;
  • stopping a person’s access to money
  • isolating a person from friends and family;
  • insulting or constantly criticising a person;
  • Damaging or breaking items or property as an act of aggression;
  • forcing a partner to have sex; and
  • threatening to harm children or pets.

Domestic violence can be committed by housemates, family members or other people you ordinarily live with.

 

I am in a domestic violence relationship and want to get out of my lease
If you want to flee a domestic violence situation, it is important to get your name taken off the lease so that you are no longer legally responsible for rent and upkeep at the property.

The following are ways in which you can get your name removed from the tenancy.

Mutual termination
You can ask you landlord to remove your name from the lease or agree to not hold you accountable under the lease due to your situation of domestic violence. If you landlord agrees, then you must get this in writing and agree on a date in which you will no longer be responsible under the lease.

Domestic Violence Order
A person experiencing domestic or family violence can apply to the Magistrates Court for a Domestic Violence Order (‘DVO’). A DVO is an order that protects you by restraining the behaviour of the defendant (the person being violent).

If Police have been called to break up a domestic dispute, they will take away the perpetrator and prepare a DVO for you.

At the Local Court hearing, you can ask the judge for a replacement tenancy agreement and for your name to be taken off the agreement. The judge will then make a new lease without your name included on it.

Hardship
You may apply to the Northern Territory Civil and Administration Tribunal (‘NTCAT’) requesting that your lease be terminated due to domestic violence. The NTCAT will consider the effect ending the lease will have on the landlord and your partner. It is important to have good evidence before going to NTCAT to support your arguments. Types of evidence include:

  • Report the incident to Police and get a PROMIS number;
  • Get a support letter from a support organisation;
  • Get witness statements from friends or family.

 

Leaving the property
If you decide to simply leave the property you may still be held responsible for rent and other obligations under your tenancy agreement.

It is important that you notify you landlord of your intention to flee due to the fact that you don’t feel safe and let the landlord no if you plan on returning to the property.

 

I want my partner off my lease due to domestic violence and stop them from coming onto the property
If you have a DVO and are going to the Local Court, instead of asking the judge to remove your name off the lease, you can ask the judge to remove your partners name from the lease.

If the judge agrees, a replacement tenancy agreement will be written and you will take full responsibility of the lease including paying all the rent and bond.

If a new lease is made, you can also ask the judge to make a Premises Access Order preventing the other person from accessing the property or limiting the times and occasions of when they can enter.

 

I don’t feel safe, can I change the locks?
Your landlord must take reasonable steps to provide and maintain locks and security devices to ensure that your property is reasonably secure. If the locks become faulty or damaged part way through the tenancy, this will be an emergency repair.

You cannot change, remove, or add a lock or security device to the premises you rent unless you have a reasonable excuse, or the landlord has given their permission.

If you do change the locks without the permission of the landlord, you must give your landlord a key to the new lock or security device as soon as possible, but no later than 2 business days after changing the locks.

 

The house was damaged as a result of domestic violence, who is responsible?
In most cases, you are responsible if a person you have agreed to come to your house does an act that breaches your tenancy agreement. However, you will not be responsible if:

  • the act is an act of domestic violence,
  • the person who does the act is in a domestic relationship with you, and
  • it is reasonable in the circumstances for you not be held responsible.

For example, you invite your boyfriend over to your house. Unfortunately, you have an argument with him, and he smashes a window in the house to scare you. In this situation, you will not be responsible for the damage if it is reasonable in the circumstances for you not to be held responsible. You will need some evidence that he caused the damage, therefore it is important to call the police and report the incident.

 

Darwin Community Legal Service 2019: Non-profit community groups have permission to reproduce parts of this publication as long as the original meaning is retained and proper credit is given to DCLS, as the publisher.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is a guide to the law in the Northern Territory. It is not a substitute for legal advice. You should talk to a lawyer about your particular legal issue. The information contained in this factsheet is current as at November 2019.