In New South Wales, most tenancy agreements are governed by the Residential Tenancies Act. This gives certain rights and responsibilities to both tenants and landlords. But let’s be honest- not all landlords do the right thing and it is important to be aware of your rights as a tenant.
If you are one of the 4.5 million people living in rental accommodation in Australia, here are some of the main warning signs that your landlord is not complying with his/her responsibilities.
Your landlord won’t give you a receipt
If you pay your rent in person or by cheque (does anyone actually use cheques anymore?) your landlord or agent must give you a receipt.
Be careful if your landlord asks you to pay your rent in cash. While this is not technically against the law, it definitely indicates an intention to avoid certain responsibilities.
Always make sure you keep detailed and up-to-date records showing:
- dates – when you paid your rent
- amounts – how much the rent payment was for
- recipients – who you paid rent to; and
- the period the rent payment is for.
While your landlord is required to keep the same records, should there ever be an unforeseen issue or question about whether you made your rent payments, you can easily prove the transaction took place.
Your landlord won’t do any repairs or maintenance
Your landlord is obligated to keep your rental property in a ‘reasonable state of repair’ given the age, rent paid, and potential life of the property. ‘Reasonable’ is one of those words lawyers like to use a lot: it basically means that a landlord does not have to fix everything that goes wrong with the property, so long as the property is in a liveable condition.
Urgent repairs are another story. These include structural issues such as burst water pipes, roof leaks and storm damage as well as broken toilets, hot water systems, gas or stove tops. Essentially anything that makes the rental property unliveable.
It is your responsibility to inform your landlord of the need for any urgent repairs as soon as possible, and your landlord must make arrangements for urgent repairs to be completed as soon as possible after you have notified him/her.
If you are not able to contact your landlord, check your tenancy agreement to see if a tradesperson has been nominated for such emergencies. If you pay for any urgent repairs (up to $1000) our of your own pocket, your landlord must reimburse you within 14 days.
Bear in mind that if you caused the problem, you may have to pay to have it fixed.
Your landlord turns up unannounced to inspect your house
Your landlord is entitled to complete 4 inspections of the property every 12 months, however, he/she is required to give you at least 7 days notice in writing before each inspection.
Generally the only time your landlord may enter the rental property without your consent is in an emergency situation. If you are not happy with your landlord turning up unannounced, simply tell him/her that you are entitled to 7 days notice in writing before any inspection.
Your landlord will not return your bond
Provided that you do not owe your landlord any money for rent or repairs at the end of your tenancy agreement, your landlord must give your bond back. It’s that simple. If your landlord thinks you do owe money, they have to make a claim against the bond.
A bond claim can be done with or without your consent. If you disagree, make sure you challenge the claim within 14 days. NSW Fair Trading is the organisation in New South Wales that deals with bond claims.
Your landlord keeps increasing your rent
Generally, your landlord must give you at least 60 days notice of any rent increase. If you are under a fixed term agreement, your landlord cannot increase your rent more than once in a 12 month period.
If you think your rent is excessive following a rent increase, you should speak to your landlord. If you are not satisfied with his/her response, you may apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal to have your rent reviewed. You may also terminate your rental agreement on the grounds that the rent has been increased. To do so, you must provide 21 days notice to your landlord.
Your landlord will not let you move to out
If your rental agreement is not for a fixed term, you only need to provide 21 days notice before moving out. If you have signed a contract for a fixed term, however, you have contracted with the landlord for that entire period.
There are certain circumstances when you can end the rental agreement before that time. For example, where your landlord has breached your contract or the property becomes uninhabitable.
What you can do
If you think your landlord has breached your agreement, contact a legal professional or NSW Fair Trading for free advice.
If you are concerned about the way your landlord is treating you, lodge a complaint with: