Residential Tenancies in South Australia
A residential lease is a rental agreement between the owner and the occupant of premises used for living purposes. This page deals with residential tenancies in South Australia.
The Residential Tenancies Act 1995 sets out the mandatory obligations of landlords and tenants in South Australia. Disputes about residential tenancies are dealt with by the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Responsibilities of landlord and tenants
Landlords have responsibilities to tenants, which include:
- ensuring the tenant has private enjoyment of the place. This means the landlord needs to provide proper notice if they want to arrive the premises (for example, to repair something or inspect the property).
- making sure that the premises exist in a reasonable state of repair and cleanliness before the tenant moves in.
- carrying out urgent repairs to essential services (these typically are such things as heating, electricity and water services). They must also carry out general repairs for which the landlord is responsible within a reasonable time.
- not unreasonably refusing a tenant’s request to sub-let or transfer the premises to someone else.
- charging up to four weeks’ rent as a security deposit (or six weeks’ rent if the rent is more than $250 per week).
- ensuring that the locks are working properly and the premises are secure.
Tenants have obligations towards landlords including:
- not using the premises for an illegal/dangerous purpose or damaging the premises.
- letting the landlord know of the need for urgent repairs immediately and general repairs within seven days of being aware of the problem.
- not sub-letting the premises without the landlord’s permission.
- paying the rent in full and on time, even if the tenant believes the landlord has breached the tenancy agreement.
Residential tenancy disputes
Common reasons for residential tenancy disputes in South Australia are:
- rental payments – for example, the tenant has not paid the rent on time or has only partly paid the rent
- rental increases – where the landlord has tried to increase the rent by a larger amount than the tenant considers reasonable
- repairs – for example, where the landlord has not carried out requested repairs
- nuisance – for example, the tenant or the tenant’s guests have been noisy or disruptive, or the landlord has interrupted the tenant’s right to privacy by arriving at the premises without giving notice.
Dealing with residential disputes
The ending of residential tenancies is dealt with under Part 5 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1995.
Where a landlord believes a tenant is in breach of a lease, they can issue a Notice to Remedy to a tenant in breach of a tenancy agreement. This may be because the tenant has not paid rent by the due date and the rent is at least 14 days in arrears. A Notice to Remedy gives the tenant (at least) seven days to pay the outstanding amount (or rectify the breach), after which the landlord can take possession of the premises and claim any amount owing through the bond.
Where a tenant believes that a landlord is in breach of a lease, they can issue a written notice of breach if the landlord has breached the tenancy agreement (for example, by showing up unannounced or not carrying out repairs within a reasonable time). A written notice of breach must usually give the landlord at least seven days to remedy the problem. If the landlord fails to do so, the tenant can terminate the lease by vacating the property.
A tenant who believes that a landlord is in breach of a lease should not respond by withholding rent. The payment of rent is a separate issue from a breach of a lease by a landlord and a breach does not justify a failure to pay rent on time.
Resolving residential disputes
Tenants and landlords should try to resolve disputes between themselves wherever possible.
Part 8 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1995 deals with the role of the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) in dispute resolution.
SACAT can hear matters regarding requests for repairs, rental disputes, bond disputes and other landlord/tenant disputes.
SACAT will usually refer parties to a conciliation prior to hearing an application.
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