Changes to the NSW Residential Tenancy Laws came into effect in March, 2020. As RMB Lawyers Partner STEVE WARWICK explains, they have improved the position of tenants:
The new Residential Tenancy Laws are designed to minimise tenant and landlord disputes, maintenance issues, and increase protection for both parties. The key areas of changes are: -
- Minimum standards for a property to be “fit for habitation”.
- Structurally sound.
- Adequate natural or artificial lighting in each room (except storage and garages).
- Adequate ventilation.
- Electricity or gas supply to be available.
- Adequate plumbing and drainage.
- Water connection to supply hot and cold water for drinking, washing and cleaning.
- Bathroom facilities – toilet and washing allowing privacy.
- Smoke alarm obligations. Annual checks are to be carried out to ensure that all smoke alarms work. Removable batteries need to be replaced in the period specified by the smoke alarm manufacturer. There is also a requirement to repair or replace a faulty alarm within two days of being made aware of it.
- Changes of a minor nature. The landlord cannot unreasonably withhold consent if the tenant has to pay for minor changes to occur - e.g. attaching flyscreens to windows, installing child safety gates inside the property or installing a phoneline or internet connection.
- Damage and removing modifications. At the end of the tenancy the tenant is now responsible for leaving the property in the same condition as at the start of the tenancy, except fair wear and tear.
- Mandatory set break fees for fixed term agreements. These apply to all fixed term agreements of three years or less when the tenant ends the agreement early. It applies to all agreements entered into from 23 March 2020. These fees are four week’s rent if less than 25% of the agreement has expired, reducing each year to one week’s rent if 75% or more of the agreement has expired.
- Strengthened information and disclosure statements. This relates to material facts being disclosed by the landlord or the tenant prior to the beginning of the tenancy – e.g. the property is to be sold, drugs being manufactured or grown in the premises in the last two years, or a Complying Development Certificate application has been lodged for rectification of external combustible cladding. If the landlord breaches the disclosure regulation the tenant can have the Residential Tenancy Tribunal end the tenancy.
- Additional water efficiency measures. All taps and toilets must now be checked for any leaks at the start of the tenancy.
- New rectification order process. The Tribunal can make Rectification Orders regarding disputes about property repairs and damage during a tenancy.
- New standard form of agreement. It allows now for a fixed term of up to five years.
- New condition report. This has been updated to include new minimum standards and smoke alarm requirements. The condition report is to be returned within seven days of the tenant commencing to reside in the property.
- New landlord information statement. The landlord must acknowledge it has read its rights and obligations as a landlord commencing a tenancy (the same as for a tenant).
These changes to the Residential Tenancy Laws in NSW are also to be read in conjunction with those introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For further information please contact RMB Lawyers.