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Sisters-in-law: the rights of tenants regarding the condition of the house

Welcome to Sisters In Law, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all your legal problems. This week, our Resident Solicitors and Real Sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett of Maurice Blackburn advise on tenants’ rights in relation to the condition of the property.

Question:

I have lived in my apartment for over five years and during that time my landlord has only done essential repairs such as fixing leaky faucets or replacing a broken oven.

When I moved in the walls hadn’t been painted in years and the carpet was quite old and my landlord said it was on his “to do list” to spruce up the place…but it doesn’t. never happened.

He always remembers to raise my rent by $10 to $20 a week every year. Recently I asked if he would consider painting the walls and revising the carpets and he said if he did he would have to raise my rent by $50 a week or more.

I’m so fed up with his pushy attitude – I always pay my rent on time, I’m a good tenant and he doesn’t like me. Does he have an obligation to renovate and replace carpets? – Dan, New South Wales

Answer:

Sorry to tell you this Dan, but there is no obligation for your landlord to renovate or replace the carpets.

A rental property does not need to be in perfect condition, it just needs to be habitable.

Landlords are responsible for repairing and maintaining the property so that it is in reasonable condition considering the rent being paid and the age of the property.

If the mat is in such disrepair that it is worn out and poses a health hazard (such as a tripping hazard), your landlord will be responsible for replacing it.

It looks like your landlord takes care of the urgent repairs (like your broken stove), and it’s more the non-urgent repairs that he doesn’t want to do.

Non-emergency repairs are problems that don’t need immediate repair, such as a broken closet, cracked window, or in your case, old carpet.

To request that the carpets be replaced, you must write a letter to your landlord detailing the problem and when you would like it done. You should keep a copy of your letter.

If your landlord doesn’t replace the rugs, you shouldn’t stop paying rent because that would be a breach of your tenancy agreement and your landlord could take steps to end your tenancy.

It’s always best to try to find a solution between you and the landlord first. If you cannot, you can contact the NSW Fair Trading Tenancy Complaints and Disputes Department or file a claim with the NSW Civil and Administrative Court (NCAT).

Fair Trading will sometimes issue a Rectification Order to owners to undertake repairs. NCAT can also place various orders, including:

1. The owner must carry out the repairs

2. Tenant can pay rent to NCAT until repairs are done

3. Tenant’s rent could be reduced until repairs are made

If you are ultimately unable to come to an agreement with your landlord and want to end the lease, you must provide notice, but be aware of any lease termination fees you may have to pay.

If you terminate a lease early and have a fixed-term lease of three years or less entered into after March 23, 2020, you may be required to pay a lease termination fee. Break costs are:

1. If less than 25% of the contract has expired, then you will have to pay four weeks rent

2. If 25% or more, but less than 50% of the contract has expired, you will owe three weeks rent

3. If 50% or more but less than 75% of the contract has expired, you will have to pay two weeks rent

4. If 75% or more of the contract has expired, you will have to pay one week’s rent.

For more information about your personal situation, contact NSW Fair Trading or Tenants’ Union of NSW.

This legal information is general in nature and should not be considered or relied upon as specific legal advice. Persons requiring specific legal advice should consult a lawyer.

If you have a legal question you would like Alison and Jillian answered, please email [email protected]

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