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Knowing Your Rights as A Tenant

What you can expect from your landlord during an inspection and what they can expect from you.

Owning a home in Australia has never been so out of reach for young Australians. We are seeing more and more headlines talking about the affordability crisis of owning a home. So where does that leave a lot of people? According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a staggering 31.4% of Australians are currently renting and are part of a Residential Tenancy Agreement.

That’s a lot of people that are often living at the mercy of landlords, real estate agencies and essentially, Residential Tenancy Agreements.

It’s not all bad though, many people are renting because it’s easier, more affordable and it also comes with a certain amount of flexibility. Much more than owning a home.

When renting a home there’s a lot that most people don’t know about when it comes to their rights and also their responsibilities as a tenant. Often a tenant will find themselves in a situation that they aren’t sure about, or maybe even feel uncomfortable agreeing to. This if often due to a breach of privacy during an inspection or a landlord’s expectations of how their property should be maintained.

Here are some of the main questions tenants are asking when it comes to dealing with landlords and property inspections.

Are there any laws that say what a landlord can and can’t expect at an inspection? For example, if the property is in good condition and clean do they have the right to comment on tidiness? If furniture owned by the tenant is damaged, does the landlord have the right to comment? (Sounds crazy, but both have happened) 

Being a tenant can be tricky, as is being a landlord. But thankfully the Australian Government has some laws in place to protect both parties. The NSW Government Department of Fair Trading states that landlords are allowed to be present at inspections. Often, they will leave this up to the property manager but for those who wish to be present at inspections there are some guidelines they have to adhere to.

As far as commenting on the general tidy-ness of a property or the condition of a tenant’s belongings?

The simple answer to this question is: No. The landlord has no legal right to comment on a person’s state of living or the condition of their furniture. Unless however, it is damaging the property and in that case, a complaint can be made. Thankfully, there are laws protecting tenants from an invasion of privacy, just as there are laws protecting property owners.

During inspections, the landlord or property manager are allowed to take photos. However, the tenant may ask that no photos be taken identifying them as Residents.

Landlords are also entitled to inspect the entire property, including sheds, garages, and additional living areas. Failure to allow a landlord to inspect the home, or any of the above-mentioned areas may result in a breach of the tenancy agreement and the landlord can serve a notice of breach to terminate the tenancy agreement.

Are there rules about how much notice a landlord/letting agent needs to provide before performing a routine inspection? 

This one is a pretty common question. The landlord can’t just “pop” in when they feel like it. A landlord must comply with the regulations set by the Department of Fair Trading. The law states that if a landlord requires access to the property for repairs or maintenance they have to provide at least 7 days written notice to the tenant. However, in some cases the tenant and the landlord can make alternative arrangements, and this is acceptable too.

Like many things in life there are exceptions to the rule, and in some situations, that can override these guidelines. In those cases, the landlord needs to give 24 hours’ notice before entering the property. The NSW Department of Fair Trading has some helpful guidelines providing information for landlords and tenants about what their rights are regarding entry to the property in these situations.

These include:

1. Making sure that you are carrying out your responsibilities that have been agreed upon in the tenancy agreement.

2. Valuation of the property

3. If the owner wishes to show prospective buyers or financial lenders through the property- make sure they have necessary access.

4. If a tenant has given notice to vacate, the landlord has the right to show potential tenants through the property (however, prospective tenants can only be shown through 14 days before the termination date).

5. If the landlord can verify a reasonable belief that the tenant has not met their duties, for example damage to the premises or common areas or causing a nuisance.

6. Or if they are complying to the general inspection once every 6 months or in the first 3 months of the first lease agreement.

Tenants have responsibilities to provide the landlord with access to the property at inspections and also in the above-mentioned scenarios. The landlord is also obligated to allow the tenant to live without interfering with their peace, comfort and privacy.

Any other rules/regulations about inspections that tenants should be aware of? 

If the landlord has entered the property without the consent of the tenant or without giving the adequate and appropriate written notice they do not have a legal right of entry and have committed and offense.

If you feel that the landlord is in breach of any of these regulations the best thing to do is contact your property manager directly. Once you have spoken with the real estate and property manager, contact the Department of Fair Trading and the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Louise Procter is a writer for https://www.wyattscompensationlawyers.com.au/. Living by the beach, on the sunny South Coast of NSW she enjoys sipping a good strong coffee whilst creating articles that provide information and inspiration to readers to help them in their everyday lives.