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What is family violence?
Family violence is any behaviour that in any way controls or dominates a family member and causes them to feel fear for their own, or another family member's, safety or wellbeing. It can include physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or economic abuse and any behaviour that causes a child to hear, witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects of that behaviour.
A family includes the following:
- current or former:
- domestic partners (including same-sex partners)
- other people considered to be 'family'.
Protected persons and respondents
A protected person is someone who is protected by any of the following:
- Family violence safety notice (issued by the police)
- Family violence intervention order (issued by a court)
- Personal safety intervention order (issued by a court)
A respondent is someone with one of the above notice or orders issued against them. In the case of a tenancy, the respondent is referred to as the 'excluded tenant' if the notice or order says they cannot enter the home.
Family violence safety notice
A family violence safety notice may have conditions similar to a family violence intervention order. A police officer applies for and issues a family violence safety notice.
A safety notice is also an application by police for a magistrate to make an intervention order. It stays in effect until the magistrate decides whether to make an intervention order.
If the respondent breaks the conditions of the safety notice, they can be arrested by police and may be fined or imprisoned.
For more information, visit the Family violence safety notice page on the Legal Aid Victoria website.
Family violence intervention order
A family violence intervention order is issued by a magistrate to protect family members from violence. An intervention order can be an interim or final order; both may have different conditions.
For example, a final intervention order may say that the respondent cannot enter the home, but an interim order may not say this. If the respondent breaks the conditions of the order they can be arrested by police and may be fined or imprisoned.
For more information, visit the Family violence intervention orders page on the Legal Aid Victoria website.
Personal safety intervention order
A personal safety intervention order is issued by a magistrate to protect someone who fears for their safety by someone outside of their family - for example, neighbours or friends.
For more information, visit the Personal safety intervention orders page on the Legal Aid Victoria website.
There are a number of options for tenants experiencing family violence in a rental property.
Changing the locks
If you are a protected person under a safety notice or intervention order (final or interim), and the notice or order says the excluded tenant cannot enter the home, you can change the locks to the rental property.
To change the locks, you must:
- live at the rental property (but do not have to be listed on the lease agreement)
- pay for the locks to be changed - the Victims Support Agency (1800 819 817) can provide help and advice
- give a key for any new lock to the landlord or agent and other tenants in the property (but not to the excluded tenant)
- give a copy of the safety notice or intervention order (or a certified extract of it) to the landlord.
If you are a tenant who has been excluded from the home under a safety notice or intervention order, and the protected person changes the locks, the landlord, agent or other tenants cannot give you a key for the new lock as long as you are subject to the notice or order.
For more information, view our Changing the locks page.
Changing the lease
The process for changing the lease depends on whether you want to leave or stay in the rental property, and whether you have an interim or final family violence intervention order.
Leaving the rental property if you have a fixed term lease agreement
If you want to leave the rental property to ensure your safety, or the safety of your children, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to end the lease early.
To do this, you must be a protected person and have a family violence intervention order (interim or final) that says the excluded tenant cannot enter the home.
VCAT can decide:
- to end the lease early if the severe hardship you would experience (if the lease continued) would be greater than any hardship the landlord would suffer if the lease ended early
- if the landlord needs to be compensated due to the lease ending early.
Leaving the rental property if you have a periodic lease agreement
If you want to leave the rental property, you must give your landlord 28 days' notice in writing. You do not need an intervention order to do this.
For more information on ending a lease agreement, view our If the tenant or resident wants to leave page.
For information on how to tell if you have a fixed term or periodic lease agreement, view our Tenancy agreement for rented premises page.
You should make arrangements with the landlord to collect any goods you left at the property. For more information, view our Goods left behind by tenants page.
Staying in the rental property
If you want to stay in the rental property without the excluded tenant, you can apply to VCAT to end the existing lease and start a new lease (with the same conditions and rent) with the landlord.
You can only do this if you are a protected person and have a final intervention order that says the excluded tenant cannot enter the home. The new lease will be for the remaining lease period.
For example, if there is five months on the existing 12-month lease, the new lease will be for five months.
You can apply for a new lease if you live at the rental property (you do not have to be listed on the lease agreement).
VCAT can decide:
- how the bond (if any) will be refunded
- who will be responsible for paying any outstanding expenses on the existing lease - for example, bills or repairs.
If you are an excluded tenant, you can apply to VCAT to end the lease early on severe hardship grounds if you are:
- listed as a tenant on the lease
- worried about your responsibilities under the lease - for example, bills or repairs.
If the landlord or property manager arranges an inspection during the VCAT proceedings, you can send someone to represent you at the inspection.
For more information, view our Changing the lease in violent situations page.
Tenants are responsible for damage done to a property as a result of family violence. If the damage is not repaired, you may lose part or all of your bond.
Altering the property
You must get the landlord's written permission before making changes to the rental property - for example, installing a security screen door or alarm system.
If the landlord does not give you permission, you cannot make the changes to the property. For more information, view our Tenants installing fixtures and altering the rental property page.
Resources and support
Download our factsheets:
You can get help with the VCAT process:
- phone: 1300 01 8228 (1300 01 VCAT). Calling this number costs the same as a local call. Additional charges may apply if you call from overseas, on a mobile or payphone.
- in person: from VCAT's family violence support worker, located at 55 King Street, Melbourne.
You can also get free renting information and advice, as well as a Family violence protection tenancy kit from Tenants Victoria on 03 9416 2577 or from the Tenants Victoria website.
For more information and a list of support agencies that can help you, visit the Department of Justice and Community Safety's Family Violence page.
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