Domestic Violence Survivors Are Being Evicted From Social Housing Over Abusers’ Actions

People have lost their homes because of complaints about their violent partners.


A new study has found that vulnerable Australians are getting evicted from social housing under a dangerously broad definition of “misconduct”, with some women losing their homes over domestic violence perpetrated against them.

You read that right: under current laws, it’s possible for landlords to define domestic violence as a “nuisance” in tenancy legal proceedings — even when the tenant is the victim of that violence.

The new study, produced by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) reviewed tenancy law and social housing policy in New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, as well as 95 cases where social housing landlords have taken legal action in response to “misconduct” by tenants.

The study focused on four vulnerable groups: women (particularly those affected by domestic violence), children, Indigenous people, and people experiencing problems with drugs and alcohol.

Cases were identified in which members of all of these groups were unfairly evicted from social housing. The study found that some women had been evicted from social housing due to domestic violence against them being deemed a “nuisance”, while children were often evicted without safeguards protecting them from homelessness.

In other cases, barriers to support for Indigenous tenants were also identified, and evictions and termination proceedings were found to disrupt treatment for alcohol and drug problems.

As the report notes, the definitions of misconduct used to evict vulnerable people from social housing are extremely broad — misconduct has been used to mean anything from “from acts of serious criminal violence, to loud noises and personal disputes between neighbours”. In some of the cases reviewed by the tribunal, landlords took legal action because of “nuisances” like complaints from neighbours about a tenant swearing and “making ‘the rude finger gesture'”.

In another case, a woman experiencing domestic violence was evicted after a series of nuisance complaints from neighbours about yelling coming from the property, as well as threats made by the woman’s partner. In one of the most concerning cases, a woman with mental illness, acquired brain injury and a substance abuse disorder was evicted from her home based on complaints about her partner’s screaming and violent behaviour. There was evidence that this behaviour was domestic violence, and that the woman’s partner had hit her only two weeks previously, but at the end of the day she still lost her tenancy because of him.

The report identified a number of policy options that could help fix this problem going forward, including giving tenants some actual certainty by committing not to evict anyone into homelessness, and emphasising that the best interests of children must be taken into consideration in eviction disputes.

The authors also recommended reforming the law to ensure that tenants aren’t liable for the shitty behaviour of others. No one should be losing their home because they experienced domestic violence.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. If you need support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency, call 000.

Men can access anonymous confidential telephone counselling to help to stop using violent and controlling behaviour through the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.