Family Violence and Tenancies
People wanting to leave abusive relationships have several legal avenues to help them do so. Protection orders are the most common, preventing the respondent from contacting or approaching the victim. However, there are other important concerns to consider during this stressful and upsetting time, one of which will be accommodation.
The Family Violence Act 2018 (FVA) allows victims of family violence to apply to the court for an occupation order or tenancy order. In practical terms, both orders grant the applicant the right to continue living in the property while the respondent has to move out or find alternative accommodation.
Victims of family violence may choose whether they wish to remain in their existing home or move out, perhaps to live with family. What may not be widely known is that if victims wish to leave a rental property, they have the option to terminate or withdraw from their tenancy by giving their landlord 2 days’ notice.
The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (RTA) makes provision for when a tenant under fixed-term or periodic tenancies wishes to terminate or withdraw from their tenancy due to family violence. The tenant must provide at least 2 days’ notice to their landlord, accompanied by qualifying evidence of family violence on the approved form. Qualifying evidence of family violence includes a statutory declaration, a written statement from a prescribed person, a police safety order or a protection order.
The tenant whose name is on the bond record may seek a refund or partial refund of the bond from their landlord upon withdrawal of the tenancy. The tenant may seek agreement from their landlord and other tenants (if any). However, where the other tenant is the respondent to the protection order, the withdrawing tenant may discuss with their landlord whether a partial refund can be agreed to without the agreement of the respondent. The landlord and remaining tenant/respondent can then agree to top up the bond to the amount required under the tenancy agreement.
The Tenancy Services website offers detailed information for victims and provides the requisite approved forms. Additionally, victims can seek assistance from their lawyers or contact Tenancy Services if there are any questions regarding this process. For more information, please visit the Tenancy Services website: https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/ending-a-tenancy/withdrawal-from-a-tenancy-following-family-violence/.