A landlord is a person who owns a property and gives another person the right to live in that property, or part of the property, for a specified period. A tenant is the person who is given the right to live in the property by the property owner (landlord).
A landlord can also be referred to as the property owner or lessor; however, the terms all bear the same meaning. A tenant is often also known as the lessee or renter.
If the landlord appoints a property agent to manage the rental property on their behalf, the agent is bound by the same obligations as the landlord when dealing with the property.
In the NT, a landlord/tenant relationship is established when the landlord gives the tenant the right to occupy a property intended to be a residential dwelling. This relationship gives rise to landlord and tenant rights and obligations in the NT.
A right to occupy is normally established by both parties signing a tenancy agreement; however, verbal agreements can also give the right to occupy to a tenant. The agreement can be fixed-term (for a set period with a clear end date) or periodic (month to month where either party can terminate the agreement by providing the requisite notice).
The landlord and tenant relationship to which the Residential Tenancies Act refers only applies to residential premises. Caravans and mobile homes, rooming agreements, and short-term holiday accommodation are not covered under this legislation.
The landlord’s obligations include:
- completion of a condition report at commencement of tenancy
- keeping appropriate records of rent paid
- ensuring the property is maintained and habitable
- ensuring the property is safe and secure
- respecting the tenant’s right to privacy
- carrying out repairs
- completion of an exit report at the end of the tenancy, and
- arranging for the refund of bond to the tenant.
The landlord’s rights when leasing their property to a tenant include:
- taking a bond at start of the tenancy
- that rent is paid on time
- undertaking inspections of the property
- charging the tenant for utility consumption, and
- deducting the cost of damage done to the property from the bond payment.
A landlord must ensure they (and any agent acting on their behalf) adhere to their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act. A breach of the landlord’s obligations can result in a monetary penalty depending on the type of breach.
The tenant’s obligations while living in a leased or rented property include:
- completion of a condition report and returning it to the landlord
- paying a bond if required
- paying rent on time
- keeping the property clean and free of damage
- tending to the yard
- being considerate of neighbours
- adhering to any special conditions in the tenancy agreement, and
- cleaning the property prior to moving out.
The tenant’s rights include:
- the enjoyment of the property
- privacy while living in the property
- that the property be maintained and safe
- that repairs are carried out in a reasonable time, and
- receipt of bond back at end of tenancy.
The tenant must ensure they abide by the conditions in the tenancy agreement. Failure to comply with the conditions of the tenancy agreement may be deemed a breach. Some breaches of the agreement can result in the tenancy agreement being terminated early and the tenant being evicted from the property.
If a dispute arises between the landlord and the tenant, the first step is to read through the tenancy agreement to determine what was originally agreed upon.
The next step is for both parties to discuss the problem rationally and attempt to come up with a solution. If a property agent has been appointed, the matter can be discussed through them.
The Northern Territory Consumer Affairs office is able to provide advice to both the landlord and the tenant regarding their rights and obligations.
Where no solution can be agreed upon, an application to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) can be made. NTCAT will hear both parties’ arguments and make a decision. Once a decision has been made, the decision is final.
This article reflects the state of the law as at 1 April 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.