The neglected property, the greedy owner, the renter from hell… the relationship between landlord and tenant is one rooted in time.
And whether it’s about the owner who jacked up the rent or the tenant who refuses to pay, both sides have their fair share of misunderstandings and tales to tell.
But beyond the rental stigmas and horror stories, where do the cracks typically tend to form in the relationship between property owner and renter? We turned to those on the home front to debunk the five most common issues and misconceptions about rental responsibilities – here they are, as narrated by property managers.
#1. ‘I didn’t break it, why should I have to get it fixed?’
Repairs and damage
Perhaps one of the most commonly misunderstood issues for tenants and landlords is the matter of fair wear and tear. Under NSW law, tenants are obligated to take good care of the property (alerting landlords or agents to any issues that require fixing), while it’s the responsibility of the landlord to maintain the property to a safe and liveable condition. But when it comes to problems like gas leaks, blocked sewers or a broken door, where do you draw the line?
The answer can be found in the Residential Tenancies Act and within the tenancy agreement. While landlords are responsible for maintaining the property, that doesn’t mean it has to be in perfect condition. From March 2020, there are minimum standards under the title, ‘fit for habitation’ – and landlords are required to attend immediately to what is termed an urgent repair. On the other hand, repairs for damage (such as spilling wine on a carpet, or hammering nails into a wall without permission), will require the tenant to arrange for the repair and pay the costs – even if the damage was accidental.
#2. ‘I’m just pet-sitting, it’s not my dog.‘
While many landlords opt to have a no-pets policy, it’s wise to ensure this is clearly stipulated in the lease agreement as protection against instances of unauthorised pets. Even the most genuine tenants have found themselves in situations feeding stray animals in the backyard, pet-sitting for family or entertaining friends who brought their dog along – and while these instances may be well-intentioned, they could still be considered a breach of contract and lead to warnings, fines or even termination of a lease agreement. In every state of Australia landlords are required to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with service and therapy animals, so be sure to get in contact with your agent or landlord if this applies to you.
#3. ‘I shouldn’t have to pay for pest control, light bulbs or smoke alarms.‘
Unless it’s specified in the lease, tenants are responsible for minor maintenance including replacing light bulbs, organising for pest control if required and ensuring that smoke alarms are in working order. As landlords are responsible for offering the property in a clean and safe state, it’s up to tenants to eradicate any pests or infestations that occur after moving in (and were caused by the tenant’s activities).
As for smoke alarms, tenants are required under NSW law to replace batteries in smoke detectors and to notify their landlord or agent if these aren’t working properly – leaving the responsibility of installing the alarms and ensuring regular compliance checks to the landlord.
#4. ‘Do I need to provide access? ‘
Even though the landlord owns the property, the tenant has been given exclusive occupation – and this means that landlords require consent and/or notice from the tenant to enter the rented premises.
There are limited circumstances when landlords can access without consent or notice, including in an emergency, to carry out urgent repairs, if the property has been abandoned or if they have serious concerns for the welfare of anyone at the property. Any other instances require specific notice periods outlined in the Residential Tenancies Act and include periodic or safety inspections, repairs, valuations or showing the property to prospective tenants.
#5. ‘Mowing the lawns isn’t my responsibility.’
While some people enjoy a day in the garden, for others it’s a chore – but if you’re a tenant, it’s important to know what you’re required to do under your tenancy agreement. This typically includes ensuring that your gardens are kept in good order including mowing, weeding, edging lawns, watering, pruning and fertilising. Landlords are generally responsible for providing maintenance equipment such as hoses or for arranging larger jobs like cleaning gutters, but this may also be specified in the tenancy agreement.
#6. ‘I only have to give two weeks’ notice.‘
Vacating a property
A common misconception about vacating a property is that tenants are only required to give two weeks’ notice to their landlord. While this is true of fixed-term agreements at the end of term, if you have a periodic lease agreement, once your lease is up you are required to give 21 days’ notice to your agent or landlord. More information about notice periods and when they apply can be found on the Tenants Union website or by contacting Prudential Real Estate.
Maintaining a great relationship with your tenant or landlord is crucial to handling all kinds of property issues – and this is where hiring a professional property manager can not only save you time and money, but reward you with peace of mind in situations that are more difficult to navigate.
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