2020 has been a big year.
Already we have dealt with devastating bushfires and a global pandemic, so chances are some landlords and tenants may have missed the new NSW residential tenancy laws that came into effect on 23 March 2020. Let’s look at what the changes are.
1. NSW landlords must ensure their rental property meets 7 minimum standards to be ‘fit for habitation’
According to the NSW Fair Trading website, these 7 standards mean the property must be structurally sound, have adequate lighting and ventilation, be supplied with electricity and gas, have adequate plumbing and drainage, have proper bathroom facilities and a water connection that supplies hot and cold water for drinking, washing and cleaning.
2. Rental increases are now limited to once a year
Want to raise the rent? It may be tempting, especially if you’re a landlord who’s suffered during the pandemic – but you’re now bound by the new laws, which state rental increases can only occur once every 12 months for periodic (continuing) leases.
3. New obligations around smoke alarms.
Can’t remember the last time you checked the smoke alarm in your rental property? If it’s on the blink it’s your responsibility to notify the landlord or property manager ASAP. They, in turn, must ensure all smoke alarms are in working order, carry out annual checks and replace batteries periodically. And if you’re a landlord or property manager who learns that a smoke alarm is not working you need to replace or repair it within two days – or you may be slapped with a penalty.
4. Changes to minor alterations, additions or renovations
If you’re a tenant wanting to make modifications – particularly in regards to child safety or to assist elderly or disabled occupants – you’re now able to do that, pending written consent from the landlord. You will, however, have to fix or remove any modifications or additions at the end of your tenancy. Landlords and property managers can’t unreasonably withhold consent to changes, but may require that they’re carried out by a qualified tradesperson.
5. You’ll need new trust accounts for rent and sales.
If you’re a property manager, you’ll need to have separate accounts for rental and sales funds – the licensees in charge of the agency have to make sure of this and check that funds are being paid into the appropriate accounts if you’re not doing this already.
6. New water efficiency laws
From 23 March, all taps and toilets should be checked and be in good working order at the start of every tenancy. All toilets in rental properties should be dual flush with a minimum three-star rating in accordance with the Commonwealth Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme. In addition, landlords can only pass on water usage charges to new and existing tenants if the property is separately metered, meets water efficiency measures and the charges don’t exceed the amount payable by the landlord.
7. NSW Fair Trading has new powers to resolve disputes
This includes being able to investigate and issue rectification orders to require landlords to carry out maintenance or do necessary repairs – or tenants to fix damage they’re responsible for.
New COVID-19 changes
Announced after the legislation changes came into effect are several temporary emergency measures from the NSW Government to help support both renters and landlords through the uncertainty of the pandemic. The major change is a moratorium on evictions due to financial hardship caused by the pandemic. Full details are at the Fair Trading website.
We hope this information helps you understand the new laws, but if you’d like more comprehensive info, head to NSW Fair Trading. Or get in touch with us – we’re always happy to chat.