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NSW rental laws set for biggest reform in two decades

For the first time in more than two decades, NSW rental laws are set for a massive shakeup. Major changes include limitations on rental increases and set fees for breaking a fixed-term lease.

The reforms also look to bring in no penalties for domestic violence victims who break a lease.

Other changes include minimum standards being introduced around access to electricity and gas, structural soundness in buildings and adequate lighting and ventilation.

Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean said the long-awaited amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act, were “sweeping reforms for tenants’ rights”.

“Under these common-sense changes, renting families will be able to make minor alterations, such as installing a picture hook to hang their family photos, and will benefit from a new set of minimum standards to ensure properties are in a liveable condition,” Mr Kean said.

“I believe we’ve struck the right balance with this reform, and I’m proud to be leading change that benefits the people of NSW.”

The other inclusions of the reforms will include the ability for tenants to make minor alterations to properties and the ability for tenants to get rectification orders from Fair Trading for repairs.

Rental increases for periodic leases will be restricted to once a year under the new rules.

Below is a full list of the reforms currently on the table as part of the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Bill 2018

  • If the property is in a strata scheme, the landlord or landlord’s agent needs to pass on a copy of the by-laws before the tenant enters into a residential tenancy agreement.
  • The creation of an offence for a landlord or landlord’s agent if they pass on a completed condition report to the tenant after the signing of the residential tenancy agreement, with a maximum penalty of $2,200.
  • The creation of an offence for a landlord or landlord’s agent if they do not sign an acknowledgement on a residential tenancy agreement, or if a landlord’s agent fails to sign the acknowledgement of the residential tenancy agreement without a statement from the landlord in writing that the landlord has read and understood a rights and obligations information statement.
  • If rent is paid via cheque, receipts are allowed to be sent to the email address of the tenant.
  • Requirements for rent increases do not apply to fixed terms less than two years that specify when, and the amount by, the rent is increased.
  • Rents paid in a periodic agreement are not allowed to be raised more than once a year.
  • New minimum standards for properties have been introduced, which include:
    basic access to electricity and gas;
    structurally sound buildings;
    adequate natural or artificial lighting as well as ventilation; and
    adequate outlets for lighting, heating and appliances.
  • Liability for damage to properties caused by someone else is not imposed on a tenant, or co-tenant, if a domestic violence offence is involved with the co-tenant.
  • Landlords can have access to premises without the tenant’s consent to take photos or visual recordings of the interior to advertise the property for sale once in a 28-day period, as long as reasonable notice is given and must not include tenants’ possessions in photos or footage.
  • Only landlords can carry out repairs to smoke alarms, with the exception of certain kinds of smoke alarms, with a maximum penalty of $2,200 for failing to repair.
  • In matters involving a Tribunal about repairs, more consideration is given to time frames and reasonable diligence.
  • Tenants who require urgent repairs can get rectification orders from Fair Trading.
  • Landlords will not be able to unreasonably refuse minor alterations, such as picture hooks.
  • The termination of an employee or caretaker residential tenancy agreement cannot be earlier than 28 days after the notice to terminate was given.
  • The termination of other fixed-term tenancies must be on or after the end of the fixed term and no earlier than 30 days after the notice to terminate was given.
  • The termination of periodic tenancies must be no earlier than 90 days after the day the notice was given.
  • Landlords cannot give a termination notice to a tenant solely because of their failure to pay rent, water, electricity, gas or oil charges unless the charge has not been paid for at least 14 days.
  • In matters involving a Tribunal about the termination of a tenancy due to unpaid water charges, the termination is only valid if the landlord has requested payment from the tenant within three months of the bill’s issue.
  • Tenants may give a termination notice if they enter into an agreement by misleading statements that are proven to be concealing certain facts.
  • Tenants may give a termination notice if the property is included on the loose-fill asbestos insulation register during or before the commencement of the tenancy without informing the tenant.
  • Tenants or co-tenants can give a domestic violence termination notice without any penalty if they are a victim of domestic violence, which is defined as:
    The tenant or co-tenant being a victim of a domestic violence offence where the offender was declared guilty during the tenancy.
    The tenant or co-tenant has the protection of an active DVO.
    The tenant or co-tenant is protected against family violence by a domestic violence offender.
    The tenant or co-tenant has been declared by a competent person to be a victim of domestic violence.
  • The break fee for fixed-term agreements less than or equal to three years is dependent on the percentage of how much of the fixed term has expired:
    less than 25 per cent: 4 week’s rent;
    25 per cent to less than 50 per cent: 3 week’s rent;
    50 per cent to less than 75 per cent: 2 week’s rent; or
    75 per cent to 100 per cent: 1 week’s rent;
  • The creation of an offence for when a landlord or a landlord’s agent lists a tenant or co-tenant’s personal information in a residential tenancy database if the tenant or co-tenant terminated a tenancy due to domestic violence, with a maximum penalty of $2,200.
  • The creation of an offence for database operators to charge fees for giving copies of personal information in a residential tenancy database to that person.

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Hannah Blackiston

Hannah Blackiston is the Deputy Editor of Elite Agent and real estate obsessive who splits her time between stalking auctions and lusting over luxury listings. She fell into property journalism 5 years ago and never looked back.

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