Residential tenancy laws and regulations can be confusing for landlords. But don’t worry. If it’s all making your head spin, contact us and we’ll make sure you fulfil your legal obligations (and your property’s investment potential). We've listed below a few of the most frequently asked questions:
You aren't required by legislation to engage the services of a professional to handle the management of your investment property, but here are many advantages in doing so9. An experienced Property Manager will ensure that you and your property fulfil all of your legal obligations. Legislation regarding investment property is continually changing and it is imperative that all guidelines and legal responsibilities are adhered to. They will also help you maximise the return on your investment, whilst minimising risk and stress.
Before you can lease your property you must ensure that at least two residual current devices (RCDs) are professionally installed to protect all power point and lighting circuits. You’ll need an Electrical Safety Certificate as proof that the RCDs have been installed. By law, it’s required that mains powered smoke alarms be fitted in all rental properties, wherever possible. It may not be possible to fit mains powered alarms in some multi-storey buildings where approved battery-powered alarms can be used. All mains powered alarms must be less than 10 years old and contain rechargeable batteries.
A legal requirement for any tenancy, a property condition report also provides peace of mind for landlords. The report describes the condition of the property at the start and the end of a tenancy, enabling you to tell if any damage occurs to your property during a tenancy, thereby helping to avoid any awkward disagreements with your tenants. Each report comprises a list of your property’s contents and notes their condition, working order and general cleanliness. For instance, it might highlight that a carpet is new and unused, or that a fly screen is torn, although your report should also include outside areas, including lawns, shrubs, trees and the conditions and configuration of any reticulation or bore system. Likewise, if your property has a pool, it’s a good idea to record its condition, including the accessories and cleaning equipment. Who is responsible for damage to your property? If the tenant causes damage to your property, then they are responsible for the cost of any repairs. Similarly, you aren’t responsible for the damage or loss of your tenant’s possessions, unless the damage was caused by a problem with the property. However, it is your responsibility to pay for repairs if damage to your property is caused by: A third party not directly connected with your tenant A third party who was not invited onto the premises by your tenant An event outside your tenant’s control, such as a burglary, flood or traffic accident What constitutes fair wear and tear? You are responsible for ‘fair wear and tear’ costs for your rental property. This can sometimes be hard to differentiate from damage that the tenant is responsible for, so the following table from the Department of Commerce’s Renting out your property – a lessor’s guide may assist:
Carpet wear in corridors or other areas used frequently A lock broke because it was old and had worn out Curtains faded from years of sun Paint flaking because it is old or not applied properly
Stains or burns from things dropped or placed on carpets The tenant forgot the key and broke a lock to get in Mould/mildew has formed because the dwelling was not aired adequately The tenant’s pet tears the curtains
Your tenant is required to take basic pest prevention measures, such as ensuring food is stored properly, or using sprays or bait traps, if required. However, as the landlord you are responsible for any annual maintenance inspections. Moreover, if there’s an infestation of rats, mice, possums, cockroaches, termites, ants, spiders, wasps or bees that calls for the attention of a pest control operator, it is your responsibility to pay for the service, unless there is evidence that the problem was caused by the activities or negligence of your tenant.
With a periodic tenancy, you are not allowed to increase the rent in the first six months, or within six months of the previous increase. You must also give your tenant at least 60 days' notice of any increase. If you have a fixed-term tenancy, you cannot increase the rent unless your agreement includes the amount of the increase, or the method of calculating an increase. Even with this proviso, you are not allowed to increase the rent within six months of the last increase. Where a fixed-term agreement is being renewed (i.e. the same tenants at the same rental premises), you don’t have to provide 60 days’ notice, but you cannot increase the rent in the first 30 days of a new tenancy agreement.