Getting affordable accommodation is hard enough, but for a single mother with a child it can be harder and riskier than for your average single person. Particularly as you try and find a safe and reliable person to share a house with.
As the COVID pandemic struck last year Jane (not her real name) signed a lease with Tony (not his real name). He was a friend-of-a-friend. Jane had thought Tony would be a safe person to share a house with. She made sure she got assurances from mutual acquaintances that he would be.
As a co-tenant on a four-bedroom house with total weekly rent of $850 they split the bond 50:50 and paid rent in advance 50:50.
But it turned out that he wasn’t a safe person to share a house with.
When Jane called the police because of his threatening behaviour they advised her to leave the house ‘if they (she and her daughter) did not feel safe’.
DV not just a spouse
It had become a case of domestic violence (DV) that saw Jane, and her primary school-aged daughter, having to leave their newly rented home. It doesn’t have to be a partner that is abusing you to be a case of DV.
Jane and her daughter left the property immediately, even though the rent was paid in advance, and went into emergency accommodation for a few days. They were then able to rent a room, with no cooking facilities, for $450 a week in a pub.
‘Owing to the current rental crisis we were stuck at the pub for four months looking for a new home,’ Jane told The Echo.
The law allows a victim of DV to terminate their lease under the Residential Tenancies Act, which Jane did. But unfortunately, her difficult situation didn’t end there.
Once the immediate stress of the DV situation had passed Jane needed to retrieve her bond and asked Tony to repay her. Tony refused and then started making allegations against Jane. At this point the bond was frozen by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) as Jane sought its return.
Jane was asking for her share of the bond. Finally, following legal advice from Barefoot Law and Legal Aid, Jane sought to have NCAT award her her half of the bond. NCAT ordered Tony to pay Jane back her share of the bond.
Law change needed
Unfortunately, while NCAT has said that Tony needs to pay Jane her bond there is no way for NCAT to ensure that that happens. It is now up to Jane to approach Tony to retrieve the money.
‘The reality is that the law does not allow for half of the bond to be returned directly to someone in Jane’s position,’ said Mark Swivel from Barefoot Law.
‘Jane spoke for herself at the NCAT hearing and put her case with clarity and courage. But the NCAT decision-maker said her hands were tied.
‘The law needs to be changed,’ said Mr Swivel.
‘A landlord is entitled to protection against losses. But when a person exits a lease owing to domestic violence, in accordance with the law, it is not right to leave Jane, or nay person, fighting by herself to get the money back from the person who has done her wrong.’