Knowing Your Rights And Responsibilities As A Landlord
Owning property in Australia comes with its own set of responsibilities. Here are a few of the most fundamental issues which landlords need to factor in:
- Find the right Property Manager who you think will best represent your interests and will keep you best informed of the status of both the property and the tenancy.
- Present the property in good order to ensure you get the best tenant.
- Anti-discrimination law in Australia does not prevent you from choosing the best applicant for your property but it does preclude you from using race or religion as a reason to refuse a tenancy.
- All repairs other than replacement of light bulbs are the responsibility of the landlord, not the tenant.
- Most leases are of 6 or 12-month duration. Longer leases may also be negotiated on an ad hoc basis with rent increases factored in (based on CPI increases, generally).
- The tenant commits to ensuring that they pay rent on time and maintain the property to an existing standard while also advising their Property Manager of any repairs or issues needing attention in a timely manner. Failure of a tenant to do so for whatever reason may lead to a contributory negligence charge if the problem is exacerbated over time without being reported.
- Landlord Insurance, while not mandatory, is highly recommended. A Tenancy Bond is only 4 weeks rent and a Tenancy Tribunal may issue orders on a tenant but if they are not met then landlords may be out of pocket with problem tenancies. Landlord Insurance ensures that conditional to their agent having followed the correct Fair Trading protocols, landlords will be covered for loss of rent and damage to the premises not covered by the claiming of the Bond.
- There are designated rules regarding breaking of leases by tenants and these need to be followed by both parties. The legislation may vary from State to State.
- Repairs need to be handled expeditiously, especially if they relate to gas, electrical or security issues which will strongly impact a tenant’s amenity. Failure to handle repair issues in a timely manner may result in a visit to the Residential Tribunal where damages may be awarded based on the loss of amenity suffered by the tenant.
- Smoke alarms, while generally installed in all houses and apartments, remain a landlord responsibility to service. The cost is reasonable and the service is done annually by a certified installer and service technician and this ensures that your insurance on the property is not voided and that from a due diligence aspect, bases are covered.
- Pets are generally accepted these days in both apartments and houses but the ultimate approval or otherwise for a pet will come from the landlord.
- Routine inspections are generally carried out every 6 months. These are usually to check the condition of the property overall, not the tenant’s living habits unless of course there is damage evident or a possibility of vermin infestation based on lack of hygiene within the house or apartment.
Fortunately, residential tenancies are well regulated so most issues are covered in either a lease document or by Fair Trading legislation. While this may appear onerous to some landlords, it removes any grey areas and ensures that both parties are aware of their respective responsibilities.