5 things tenants and landlords should know
Did you know that when leasing a property in Australia, the onus is very much on owners to make sure the property meets the standards of their State's Tenancies Act? Owners must also ensure that rental properties are fit for habitation and in a state of reasonable repair.1
Owning an investment property should be a rewarding experience. Knowing your rights and the rights of your tenants can help ensure it’s rewarding for all concerned. Since tenants are meant to be provided with premises in a reasonable state of cleanliness and fit to live in, many landlords schedule maintenance and repairs right before a tenancy begins.2 We also recommend landlords make sure the locks are intact, and doors are secure.3 And while the tenant must look after the property by keeping it clean and free from damage; the landlord should also expect "fair wear and tear", which is normal deterioration from daily use.4 Here are some other things every landlord should know.
1. Help, it's an emergency!
When an emergency repair is needed, a tenant must notify the landlord or managing agent. However, if they cannot be contacted, the tenant can contact a nominated repairer, depending on the state regulations that apply, who may be listed on the tenancy agreement.5 As a landlord or managing agent, it’s important that nominated repairers - such as plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, glaziers, appliance repair people and general handypersons - are available and known to the tenant, in the event of an emergency. These details should also be provided to your property manager.
Emergency situations that might require nominated repairers include:
- a serious water leak
- a blocked toilet
- a serious roof leak
- a gas leak
- a dangerous electrical fault
- serious flood damage
- serious storm, fire or impact damage
- breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply
- no hot water, cooking or heating
- any damage that makes the property unsafe or insecure
- damage which could injure a person
- a serious fault in a staircase or lift that restricts a tenant from gaining access.5
2. Drains and gutters
If a drain or gutter becomes blocked, it’s usually the landlord's responsibility to clear and/or repair. If a blockage has been caused by something a tenant has done, the tenant may be liable for the cost of repairs. Of course, the responsibilities of tenants and landlords may vary in each state. There is a good argument however that if a landlord is responsible for all the maintenance or upkeep of the structure of the property that this also includes the responsibility to maintain gutters and drains. It‘s important that both the tenant and landlord are aware of their responsibilities and a list of who is responsible for what maintenance should be included in any rental agreement.
3. Smoke detectors
Landlords must install smoke alarms, test them and replace flat batteries within 30 days before the tenancy begins.6 The tenant is advised to test and clean each alarm every year and replace the batteries.
The property should be in a clean and safe state when the lease is signed, so look for signs of pest droppings and mention these in the property condition report that is completed at the start of a new tenancy agreement. Who pays for pest control depends on when the infestation occurred. If pests move in because of a tenant's uncleanliness, the tenant may be liable to the landlord. Landlords or property agents should check if the previous tenants had cats or dogs, as fleas may not appear for a couple of months. In NSW, the landlord pays to remove possums, termites, and birds.7
5. Who mows the lawn?
Tenants may be required to look after mowing, edging and weeding, but this should be specified in the tenancy agreement.8 However, any plants, hedges or lawns that need specialist upkeep, including tree lopping, are usually the landlord's responsibility. The tenant is not responsible if plants or lawns die due to compliance with any government imposed water restrictions. The state of lawns and gardens should be included on the property condition report and maintained to the same standard by the party specified in the tenancy agreement.
Tenancy laws can differ from state to state, so tenants and landlords should check the Residential Tenancies legislation applicable to the state the property is located in.
1. Tenants' Rights Manual, State Library New South Wales, Information about the law in NSW: Health and safety, https://legalanswers.sl.nsw.gov.au/tenants-rights-manual-practical-guide-renting-nsw/about-residential-tenancies-act, viewed on August 17 2018
2. Tenants Union of NSW, Residential Tenancies Act, Factsheet 01, https://files.tenants.org.au/factsheets/fs01.pdf#page=1, viewed on August 17 2018
3. Government of Western Australia, Department of Commerce, Rental property security standards,
http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumer-protection/rental-property-security-standards, viewed on August 17 2018
4. NSW Fair Trading, ‘Getting your bond back,’ 5 November,
https://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/housing-and-property/renting/ending-a-tenancy/getting-your-bond-back, viewed on August 17 2018
5. Residential Tenancies Authority, Queensland, 'Emergency repairs', https://www.rta.qld.gov.au/Renting/During-a-tenancy/Maintenance-and-repairs/Who-is-responsible-for-repairs, viewed on August 17 2018
6. Residential Tenancies Authority, Queensland, 'Smoke alarms',
https://www.rta.qld.gov.au/Renting/During-a-tenancy/Maintenance-and-repairs/Smoke-alarms, viewed on August 17 2018
7. NSW Office of Fair Trading, 'Pests and vermin',
http://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/ftw/Tenants_and_home_owners/Renting_a_home/During_a_tenancy/Pests_and_vermin.page, viewed on August 17 2018
8. Residential Tenancies Authority, Queensland, 'Lawns, trees and gardens', viewed 8 April 2015,
https://www.rta.qld.gov.au/Renting/During-a-tenancy/Maintenance-and-repairs/Lawns-gardens-and-trees, viewed on August 17 2018