What You Need to Know about Changes to Property Management Laws in NSW
A recent overhaul to the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 means a whole raft of changes affecting NSW landlords and their tenants.
Home ownership is increasingly out of reach for many NSW residents resulting in more long-term renters. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures report that between 1994−5 and 2013−14 the number of Australians renting increased from 25.7% to 31%.
With the swelling number of renters and fierce competition for leases, it seems that many feel like they have little say when it comes to their rights. Recent research from CHOICE, the National Association of Tenants’ Organisations and National Shelter has found that 62% of people say they feel like they can’t ask for changes and there was an ‘entrenched culture of fear among renters’.
A step in the right direction towards alleviating some of this ‘fear’ is the fundamental overhaul of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 recently passed in the NSW parliament after detailed consultation with industry groups.
Some the significant changes to be aware of include:
Online Rental bonds
It is now mandatory for self-managing landlords and real estate agents to invite tenants to lodge their rental bonds using Rental Bonds Online (RBO). According to NSW Fair Trading, RBO is a fast and convenient way to lodge, view and refund residential rental bonds online without the need to send cheques and paper forms. In addition, all parties are kept up to date about what is happening with a bond by email and SMS.
Loose-fill Asbestos Insulation Register (LFAI Register) Notification
Since May 2016, a Loose-Fill Asbestos Insulation (LFAI) Register has been publicly available which identifies and records NSW premises that contain the presence of loose-fill asbestos insulation – a common ceiling insulation for houses built in the 1960s and 70s.
Real estate agents and/or landlords have to notify prospective tenants if residential properties available to lease are already listed on the LFAI Register. In addition, as of 30 October 2016, landlords need to tell existing tenants if a property has been added to the LFAI Register.
Tenants who find out that their rental property has been put on the LFAI Register, have the following options:
- They can choose to keep renting the property. However, if the landlord is participating in the voluntary purchase and demolition program, this won’t be a long-term option.
- Tenants who are not within the fixed period of a rental tenancy agreement can give 21 days’ notice and vacate the property.
- If tenants are still within the fixed period of a rental tenancy agreement but want to vacate the property quickly, they should contact the managing agent or landlord and seek to negotiate the termination of the lease. Tenants experiencing difficulties in terminating a lease can seek dispute assistance by lodging a complaintwith Fair Trading.
Permission to Keep Pets
Last year, the NSW Government made more than 90 changes to NSW strata laws including those affecting renting pet owners.
Under a new model by-law for pets, which a body corporate can choose to adopt or change, pets are not banned altogether. Before being able to have a pet, renters would need to ask the body corporate for permission. The body corporate would not be able to ‘unreasonably’ refuse the renter’s permission to keep the pet.
Each case would be considered on its merits and tenants would still also need approval from their landlord to have a pet in the unit.
Smoking has now been specifically defined as a nuisance. In the new model by-laws, the body corporate could adopt a rule that would allow them to ban a resident from allowing smoke, such as from a balcony, to drift into another apartment or common area if it interferes with a neighbour enjoying their home. If the resident ignores the letter of notice to comply, the body corporate could apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) to get an order for the resident to comply with the by-law or face fines.
The changes to rental laws will make it easier for all parties to understand, administer and address many common issues relating to renting in NSW.
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