Tenants Rights In NSW

Tenants Rights In NSW

Tenants Rights In NSW

As a tenant, you must know and understand your rights. Maintaining a good relationship with your landlord is crucial to ensuring that you continue to live in a safe and comfortable environment.

Find out what your obligations and rights are as a tenant in NSW. We will look at common reasons for disputes, what steps you can take to resolve your issue and where to go for help. 

Let’s take a closer look.

What Is A Tenant?

A tenant is a person or business who occupies a house or commercial property that they do not own, and they pay rent to the property owner (landlord) or real estate company to live or work at the premises.

What Is A Tenancy Agreement?

As a tenant, before you move into a property, you will receive a document with a list of your rights and obligations, which will define what you can and can’t do within your home. This document is called a residential tenancy agreement. Living in a rental house comes with some restrictions. You should read this document carefully and become familiar with the standard terms.

Types Of Tenancy Disputes

A tenant/landlord relationship can be challenging to manage. Maintaining a good working relationship with your landlord is crucial to provide a comfortable and safe living environment. Both parties have an endless list of problems that could occur. Disputes may arise with your landlord, which could result in eviction and potential homelessness. So resolving issues quickly and efficiently is important. The types of disagreements can vary. Often lawyers are required to help solve matters quickly.

Some of the more common disputes include:

Rental Bond Disputes

As a tenant, when you first commence renting a property, you will usually pay a bond of up to four weeks rent. When you vacate the property, the money will be refunded to you, as long as it is in good condition. Repairs for damage could be taken from your bond; it acts as a security to ensure that tenants follow the terms of their agreement.

Increased Rent

A landlord may increase the amount of rent payable as long as they provide 60 days written notice of the increase. If the rent increase amount is considered excessive by the tenant, they can request an order from the tribunal, which will determine the maximum rent for the next 12 months.

Unpaid Rent / Late Rent

As a landlord, having a tenant who regularly pays their rent on time would be an ideal scenario, but it doesn’t always work out that way. The rental agreement states what day the tenant should pay their rent. If rent remains unpaid for two weeks, then an overdue notice may be issued to the tenant. If the amount remains unpaid or is consistently late, then the landlord may issue a termination order.

Repairs And Maintenance

When living in a rental home, ongoing repairs and maintenance are the responsibility of the landlord. If they have breached their obligation to maintain the property in a reasonable state of repair, the tenant may be forced to live in an unsafe environment. Matters can be investigated, and a landlord may lodge a rectification order.

Conversely, if the other party has caused damage and has failed to repair the damage, the landlord may lodge an order.

Lease Termination

A landlord could terminate a lease for several reasons. If a tenant has breached terms in their contract or fails to make rental payments, they can receive a termination notice.

Refusal To Leave The Premises

When a person has broken their tenancy agreement and refuses to leave the premises, the landlord is within their right in these circumstances to take the issue to the tribunal or the magistrates court to resolve it.

Destruction Of Property

As a property owner, you risk having bad tenants who do not take good care of your residential premises, they may leave the property in a bad state with damage throughout the whole building, that even the bond will not cover repairs. You may have to sue the tenant for the repair costs of damage to your property.

How To Handle A Residential Tenancy Dispute

When a landlord and tenant disagree on issues, it can become unpleasant. Reaching a mutual agreement can take time, and tenancy disputes can often drag on for months. It is essential to settle any issues quickly between yourselves, to feel safe and comfortable in your home.

It is crucial as a tenant to be familiar with the terms in your rental agreement and carefully read the document before proceeding with further action. If you are unsure, you should seek legal advice.

The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) can make legally binding decisions to help resolve tenancy issues between tenants and landlords. They were formally known as the Consumer Trading and Tenancy Tribunal.

  1. The first step in the process is to complete a NCAT application form. You will need to explain the reason for seeking the orders and pay an application fee.
  2. Your matter will be listed, and you will receive a notification from NCAT advising the date and time of your hearing.
  3. Before attending your hearing, you need to attempt to resolve your dispute via conciliation. Reaching an agreement between yourself and the other party can save you a lot of time, money and stress. If you can settle the matter yourself, you will need to record the agreed details, a consent order can make it legally binding.
  4. If your conciliation was unsuccessful, you would need to attend your hearing to present your statement and any evidence supporting your claim. A tribunal member will listen to both parties and decide, which will then become a legally binding order.
  5. After NCAT has decided, you have 14 days to appeal if you are not happy with the outcome.

Rights And Obligations Of Landlords And Tenants

Both landlords and tenants have responsibilities they need to uphold and rights that guide what they can and can’t do during a tenancy, most of which should be well documented in the residential tenancy agreement. There is legislation under the Residential Tenancies Act which governs what laws should be upheld. Some common areas of responsibility include:

Responsibilities Of The Tenant

  • Pay rent as per the tenancy agreement
  • Responsible for minor maintenance of the property, including gardening, replacing light bulbs etc
  • Repair any damage you have done to the property
  • Advise owner of any urgent repairs or structural maintenance
  • Request permission before making any alterations
  • Make property available for regular inspections

Responsibilities Of The Landlord

The residential tenancies act states that rental property needs to be in a reasonable state of cleanliness and “fit for habitation”.

Seven minimum standards clarify the expectations.

  1. Structurally sound
  2. Adequate lighting in every room
  3. Adequate ventilation
  4. Sufficient plumbing and drainage
  5. Good water connection for hot and cold supply
  6. Bathroom facilities including toilet and private washing area
  7. Sufficient electricity or gas sockets and supply for lighting, heating and appliances

As well as the minimum standards, there are additional obligations as a landlord, including:

  • Providing and maintaining the property in a clean and reasonable minimum standard
  • The property must be safe, secure and reasonably clean
  • Accurate recording of all rental financial records
  • Ensure all installations such as air conditioning and heating are in working order
  • Payment of all council rates and taxes
  • Advance notice before entering the property
  • Attend to urgent repairs
  • Must abide by anti-discrimination laws
  • Provide a detailed condition report of the property at the start of the tenancy

Required Disclosures

When you start your tenancy, your landlord should disclose relevant information about any plans for the property. Like, plans for the property to be sold or to become part of a strata scheme.

They must also not conceal information, for example, has the property been subject to flood or fire in the last five years, has there been asbestos issues, or are there any significant health or safety risks within the property. This can be particularly relevant with commercial leases.

What Is Tenant Law?

Tenant law covers all legal aspects of the relationship between the occupant of the property (tenant) and the owner of the property (landlord). It covers their rights and duties. A lawyer specialising in civil law, with a focus on property law, can assist with all matters about your tenancy and provide practical legal advice. Occasionally residential tenancies may fall within the criminal law jurisdiction, for example, acts of fraudulence or other criminal acts.

The legislation that governs tenancy law is the Residential Tenancy Act 2010. The rules for renting can vary from state to state in Australia. In NSW, for example, the fair trading body governs landlord and tenant relationships.

Where To Find Help?

NSW Fair Trading

Fair Trading NSW is part of the NSW Government Department of Customer Service, and they aim to make businesses in NSW accessible and fair for all.

For residential tenancies in NSW, landlords and tenants can utilise NSW fair trading tenancy complaint service.

Legal Aid NSW / Duty Lawyer

Legal Aid NSW can provide free legal advice. A duty lawyer will help you if you do not have a lawyer. They can represent you in a hearing and provide legal advice and assistance. If you want to appeal a decision that NCAT has made, they can provide viable options.

Advocacy Programs Within NSW

Programs are set up within NSW to help support renters to stay in housing to prevent homelessness. 

For private renters, there are community legal agencies available that can assist you with a range of services, including negotiation with rental providers, preparation and assistance with tribunal hearings,referral and information about other available services

These agencies are provided through the Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service of NSW, are available for renters who are experiencing family violence or are financially disadvantaged.

They also provide fact sheets, sample letters and other resources.

For renters in public and community housing, support providers can help connect you with services in your local area.

Private Lawyer

Your lawyer should have a solid understanding of property law and tenant disputes. Each state has different legislation, and lawyers should have previous experience in dealing with these matters. They will be able to explain the necessary steps to take and advise the best course of action.

Aboriginal Tenants

Within NSW, the Aboriginal Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service (ATAAS) can provide representation, legal advice and information about your rights as an aboriginal tenant.

Social housing providers such as the Aboriginal Housing Office can provide access to affordable, quality housing.

Summary

When you occupy residential premises that you do not own, you are required as a tenant to comply with the obligations as stated in your rental agreement. The owner of the property must also adhere to these conditions. The responsibilities of the landlord include ensuring that the property is fit for habitation. 

When a landlord and tenant dispute occurs, try to solve any issues independently first. If that is not possible, the NCAT can make legally binding decisions to help resolve tenancy disputes between tenants and landlords. 

There are programs and legal agencies available within NSW to help support renters that can assist with a wide range of services, information and practical advice.

If issues arise, receiving legal advice can avoid costly and time consuming litigation. Lawyers can help to ensure you get a fair outcome by negotiating on your behalf.

FAQs

1. What Does The Rental Tribunal Do?

Answer: The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) is an independent body that can make legally binding decisions to help settle tenancy issues between tenants and landlords. It is not a formal court, but the decisions made by the tribunal members are legally binding.

2. Can Tenants Be Evicted In NSW?

Answer: If a tenant fails to make rental payments or has breached terms in their contract, they can receive a termination notice. If you do not leave the premises at the end of the termination notice period, the landlord is within their rights to obtain a warrant for possession of the property, and you can be removed forcibly.

3. What Does A Tenancy Mean In Law?

Answer: When an individual has temporary possession or occupancy of a property that belongs to someone else, it is called a tenancy. Residential tenancy agreements are contracts that are made between landlords and tenants. They define the rights and obligations of both landowner and renter.

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