With more than 30 per cent of the NSW population now renting, the NSW Fair Trading confirmed in a recent post to its website changes to the NSW tenancy laws that start on 23 March 2020, which are designed to “improve tenants’ renting experience while ensuring that landlords can effectively manage their properties”.
“The changes aim to reduce disputes over repairs and maintenance, increase protection and certainty for tenants, and clarify the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords,” NSW Fair Trading said.
Key changes include:
- NSW landlords must ensure that their rental property meets 7 minimum standards to be ‘fit for habitation’
- new and improved disclosure obligations on landlords and their agents, including disclosure of material facts, and strengthening the remedies for tenants when these obligations aren’t met
- landlords must ensure that smoke alarms are in working order. A penalty will apply for landlords who don’t comply
- making it easier for tenants to install fixtures or make alterations, additions or renovations that are minor
- mandatory set fees when a tenant breaks their lease will apply to all new fixed-term agreements that are 3 years or less
- limiting rent increases to once every 12 months for periodic (continuing) leases
- new powers for NSW Fair Trading to resolve disputes between tenants and landlords. This includes powers to investigate and issue rectification orders to require landlords to carry out repairs and maintenance, or tenants to fix damage.
Changes of a minor nature
“Tenants are currently allowed to install fixtures or make alterations, additions or renovations if they have the landlord’s written consent, or if the residential tenancy agreement permits it,” as stated on the NSW Fair Trading website.
“If the tenant’s request for a fixture or alteration, addition or renovation is of a ‘minor nature’ then the landlord must not unreasonably withhold consent.
“The tenant must pay for the fixture they install or for any alteration, renovation or addition to the property that they make, unless the landlord agrees otherwise.”
The NSW Fair Trading website outlines the following kinds of fixtures or alterations, additions or renovations of a ‘minor nature’ for which it would be “unreasonable” for a landlord to withhold consent:
- securing furniture to a non-tiled wall for safety reasons
- fitting a childproof latch to an outdoor gate of a single dwelling
- inserting fly screens on windows
- installing or replacing an internal window covering (i.e. curtains)
- installing cleats or cord guides to secure blind or curtain cords
- installing child safety gates inside the property
- installing window safety devices for child safety
- installing hand-held shower heads or lever-style taps to assist elderly or disabled occupants
- installing or replacing hooks, nails or screws for hanging paintings, picture frames and other similar items
- installing a carriage service to connect a phone line or to access the internet and any associated facility or customer equipment
- planting vegetables, flowers, herbs or shrubs (shrubs that don’t grow more than 2 meters) in the garden if existing vegetation or plants do not need to be removed
- installing a wireless removable outdoor security camera
- applying shatter-resistant film to window or glass doors
- making modifications that don’t penetrate a surface, or permanently modify a surface, fixture or structure of the property.
According to their website, the new Regulation also specifies that a landlord may require that the following changes be carried out by a qualified person. Installing hand-held shower heads or lever-style taps to assist elderly or disabled occupants. Installing a carriage service to connect a phone line or to access the internet and any associated facility or customer equipment.
“The changes will not apply if a property is listed on the loose-fill asbestos insulation register, or if the property is a heritage item. Some restrictions and exclusions also apply to property in a strata scheme or in a residential land lease community, or to social housing properties,” NSW Fair trading said.
“Even if the fixture, alteration, addition or renovation is included in the above list, tenants are still required to get the landlord’s written consent to the change. However, for changes that are on the list and not covered by an exemption, it is unreasonable for the landlord to refuse consent or place conditions on the consent.”