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Home of Your Own

A self help tool for renters affected by family violence

Making your home safer

Guidance on making your rental home safer, including changing the locks, installing security cameras and more.

Changing the locks

You can change the locks without asking the rental provider for permission if the locks are not part of a master key system (one key that opens many locks). For example, if your back door and front door have different keys but then there is a third key that opens them both, this is likely to be a master key system. 

If you (or your children) have an intervention order (IVO) excluding the person using violence from your home, you can change the locks (including locks that are part of a master key system) without asking the rental provider.  

If you don’t have an IVO, you can still ask the rental provider for permission to change locks that are part of a master key system. They can’t unreasonably refuse. 

If it’s your home but you’re not on the rental agreement, you can still change the locks. You will need an IVO excluding the person using violence. 

You can also change the locks (including locks that are part of a master key system) if you have an order from VCAT ending an existing rental agreement with the person using violence and creating a new rental agreement in your name. 

Sharing the new keys 

You will need to give a copy of the new keys to the agent or rental provider, and a copy of the IVO, if you have one. 

With an IVO, you don’t need to give a copy of the keys to the person who has been excluded from your home. But you need to give a copy to anyone else on the rental agreement.

You can read more about getting an intervention order. 

Will the person using violence get a copy of the key news? 

The agent and rental provider cannot give a copy of the new keys to the person using violence if: 

  • the person using violence is not on the rental agreement 
  • the person using violence has been excluded from the property by an intervention order and a copy of the intervention order has been provided to the rental provider or agent 
  • VCAT has made an order terminating the rental agreement and creating a new order which resulted in person using violence not being on the rental agreement. 

Talking to your rental provider 

Home of Your Own can draft you a personalised letter that you can use to talk to your rental provider about changing the locks and your safety needs.

Draft your letter, using Home of Your Own.

A family violence worker from a family violence service may be able to arrange a lock change,talk to your rental provider about the issue, or provide financial support to pay for them. 

You can also speak to a housing service about your housing options or a lawyer for help obtaining an intervention order or if your rental provider is objecting to you changing the locks.  

See our list of services, for free legal, family violence and housing support. 

Other safety modifications

Modifications you can make without consent 

As long as your home is not heritage listed, you can make some modifications without needing consent from the rental provider.

These include:  

  • Installing security lights, alarm systems and security cameras that: 
    - do not impact on the privacy of neighbours, 
    - can be easily removed from the rented premises, and 
    - are not hardwired (e.g. built in or made permanent) to the rented premises. 
  • Installing non-permanent window film to increase privacy 
  • Replacing curtains, provided the original curtains are kept 
  • Installing a lock on a letterbox 

Modifications where you need consent 

You can make other modifications necessary to keep you safe if you have experienced violence. You need consent from your rental provider but they cannot unreasonably refuse.If your rental provider refuses to support your request for safety modifications, you should seek legal help to explore your options.

Modifications that you need consent for include: 

  • installing a secure letterbox 
  • changes to external gates  
  • installation of a security system by a qualified person. 

If a co-renter is using violence against you and is a family member, you do not need an intervention order to make safety modifications. 

A family member can mean a partner or ex-partner, your child or child of a partner, or another relative. It may also mean someone you regard as being like a family member, for example a carer who has developed the type of relationship that would exist between family members with someone they care for.  

Renters should try to reach an agreement with the rental provider that modifications can remain after they move out (preferably in writing).  

Otherwise, once you leave a property you will need to restore the property by removing any security alterations or paying the costs to restore the property to the condition before the modifications.

Talking to your rental provider  

Home of Your Own can help you to draft a personalised letter or email to your rental provider to discuss the safety modifications you need and request their consent if necessary.

Draft your letter, using Home of Your Own.

In some circumstances the rental provider can reasonably refuse to give consent. Some examples are:  

  • The modification would significantly change the property.  
  • The modification would lead to additional maintenance costs for the rental provider if it were not restored back to the original condition at the end of the lease.  
  • It would not be practical to restore the property to the original condition after the modification has been made.  
  • The property is about to be sold or vacated and you have been given a valid notice to vacate. 

A family violence worker from a family violence service may be able to arrange security modifications or provide financial support to pay for them.

You can also speak to a housing service about your housing options or a lawyer if your rental provider is objecting to you making safety modifications. 

See our list of services, for free legal, family violence and housing support. 

This page contains legal information only. View our disclaimer

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