Late last year, the NSW Parliament passed the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Bill 2018. This follows changes to tenancy laws in Victoria which “give tenants more rights, will allow them to stay on longer leases and make bonds smaller and fairer”.
The series of amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 are designed to give tenants more rights while keeping the interests of landlords and investors in mind.
According to Domain, the reforms are set to be “the biggest shake-up of rental laws in more than two decades” and is the “culmination of two years of lobbying and consultation with renters and industry groups”.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s changed in the NSW Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Bill 2018:
1. Protection for domestic violence victims
Victims of domestic violence will be able to terminate their tenancy immediately and without penalty. In the event that a tenancy is terminated due to domestic violence, landlords and their agents are prohibited from listing the victim on a tenancy database.
Additionally, victims of domestic violence and their co-tenant (who is not the perpetrator) will not be held liable for property damage that occurred during a domestic violence incident. It remains unclear who would be held accountable for property damage costs at this stage.
2. Rental requirements and minor alterations
All rental properties must meet the following seven requirements at the start and throughout the tenancy to be considered fit for living:
- Structurally sound property
- Adequate natural or artificial lighting in each room, except storage rooms or garages
- Adequate ventilation
- Supplied with electricity or gas and have adequate electricity or gas outlets for lighting, heating and appliances
- Adequate plumbing and drainage
- Connected to a water supply service or infrastructure for the supply of hot and cold water for drinking, washing and cleaning
- Contains bathroom facilities, including toilet and washing facilities, which allows user privacy
Also, landlords will not be able to unreasonably refuse minor alterations to properties such as installing picture hooks.
3. Repairs and maintenance
In an effort to reduce disputes over repairs and maintenance, NSW Fair Trading will have the power to issue rectification orders if tenants require urgent repairs or maintenance.
Furthermore, only landlords can carry out repairs to smoke alarms, except for certain kinds of smoke alarms and repairs. A maximum penalty of $2,200 may apply to landlords who fail to repair a smoke alarm.
4. Rent increases and break lease fees
For periodic leases, rent increases are limited to once a year. This does not apply to fixed term leases that are less than two years in duration that specify when, and how much, rent is increased by.
For all new fixed term leases that are three years or less, set break lease fees will apply:
- Four week’s rent if 75% or more of the lease remains
- Three weeks’ rent if between 50% and 75% of the lease remains
- Two weeks’ rent if between 25% and 50% of the lease remains
- One weeks’ rent if 25% or less of the lease remains
5. Stricter termination notices
No-grounds evictions remain unchanged in the reforms. However, stricter termination notices mean that landlords cannot give a termination notice to a tenant solely because of unpaid rent or bills unless the charges are over 14 days late.
In matters involving a Tribunal, about the termination of a tenancy due to unpaid water charges, the termination is only valid if the landlord has requested payment from the tenant within three months of the bill’s issue.
Moreover, termination of employee or caretaker residential tenancies cannot be earlier than 28 days after the notice to terminate was given. Termination of other fixed term tenancies must be on or after the end of the fixed term and no earlier than 30 days after the notice to terminate was given. For periodic tenancies, termination must be no earlier than 90 days after the day the notice was given.
Meanwhile, tenants may give a termination notice if they enter into an agreement by misleading statements that are proven to be concealing certain facts. Additionally, tenants may give a termination notice if the property is included on the loose-fill asbestos insulation register during or before the commencement of the tenancy without informing the tenant.
6. Added transparency and clarity
The reforms will prohibit tenancy database operators from charging tenants to access their own personal information held on the database.
Meanwhile, landlords can have access to the premises without the tenant’s consent to take photos or videos of the interior of the property once in a 28-day period, as long as reasonable notice is given and the tenants’ possessions are not included in the photos or video footage.
Lastly, landlords or agents must provide a tenant with a property condition report at the start of the tenancy. Failure to do so may incur a maximum penalty of $2,200.
When do these new rental laws come into effect?
While the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Bill was passed in October, the bill is not in effect yet. The NSW Government will announce an implementation date after holding discussions with all stakeholders.
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