A landlord is a person who owns a property and leases the property to another party. The party who is given the right to live in the property is referred to as a tenant. In NSW a tenant may also be referred to as a renter.
Often a landlord will appoint a real estate agency to manage the property. Where a property manager is appointed, they are held to the same obligations as the landlord in relation to entry to the property and conducting inspections.
A landlord/tenant relationship is created when the landlord grants the tenant the right to live in the property. The right to live in a property is sometimes referred to as the right to occupy the property.
In NSW a landlord is under an obligation to have a written tenancy agreement signed before the start of the lease. The tenancy agreement outlines the terms of the lease, including duration, and the obligations of each party.
Although the landlord is under a legal obligation to provide a written tenancy agreement, a tenant’s right to occupy the property will still be recognised whether the agreement was oral, implied, or only partly in writing. The landlord will not be able to increase the rent or terminate the lease in the first six months where a written agreement was not given to a tenant.
General obligations of the landlord include:
- the provision of a written tenancy agreement to the tenant
- lodging the bond with the NSW Office of Fair Trading
- carrying out repairs to the property
- ensuring smoke detectors are working
- complying with all safety laws.
General rights of the landlord include:
- conducting inspections of the property (no more than four times per year)
- to receive rent on time
- that the tenant pay water charges
- that the tenant keep the property clean and maintained.
General obligations of the tenant include:
- completing the entry report and returning it to the landlord or property manager within 7 days
- paying the rent on time
- keeping the property clean and undamaged
- maintaining the yard (except for large trees requiring expert knowledge to maintain)
- acting in accordance with the tenancy agreement and any special arrangements made prior to moving in.
General rights of the tenant include:
- the right to privacy or ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the property
- that the property be in a liveable condition
- that the landlord carry out any repairs to the property.
The first step to resolving tenancy disputes is to discuss the issue with the other party. If the property is managed by a real estate agency, the issue can be discussed with them. If an agreement is reached it is important to get the terms which are agreed upon in writing in case any further disputes arise.
Where agreement cannot be reached, Fair Trading NSW operates a free tenancy complaint service to help mediate certain disputes between landlords and tenants. The mediator will provide impartial advice to both parties and assist them to voice their arguments. Once both parties have discussed the dispute the mediator will put forward suggestions; however, the mediator cannot force the parties to agree to an outcome.
If an outcome is not agreed upon during the mediation, either party can request a ruling from the state’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) by filing an application. A decision made by NCAT is final and binding on both parties, regardless of whether they agree with the decision. NCAT has a monetary limit of $30,000, being the maximum dollar amount claimable in relation to the dispute.
Tenants are able to seek further help from the organisation Tenants NSW, which provides free advice to any tenant in the state.
Fair Trading NSW is a department run by the State Government to, among other things, assist in the regulation of residential tenancies. Fair Trading NSW can provide leasing information to both landlords and tenants.
This article reflects the state of the law as at 16 March 2016. It is intended to be of a general nature only and does not constitute legal advice. If you require legal assistance, please telephone 1300 636 846 or request a consultation at gotocourt.com.au.