Property managers should be instant mediators in the event of a crisis.
Queensland Housing and Public Works minister Tim Mander has urged tenants, landlords and property managers to work together to arrange the cleaning and repair of rental properties damaged during last week’s floods.
“We know that a lot of people are going to be wondering where they stand and who is responsible for what when it comes to the clean-up process,” Mr Mander said.
“At times like this it’s particularly important that tenants and landlords communicate, either directly or through a property manager, about the clean-up and any repairs that are needed.”
Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) general manager Fergus Smith said landlords were responsible for cleaning up the building itself, including fences, gardens and pools, while tenants were responsible for cleaning or removing their own possessions.
“Landlords need to ensure a property is fit to live in,” Mr Smith said.
“That means taking care of the repairs and maintenance needed to bring the property back to a liveable condition. They also need to comply with health and safety laws.”
Where a property is partially damaged and the tenant continues to live there, the landlord will need to arrange entry to the premises for repairs. Entry can be at any time by mutual agreement, or by serving an Entry Notice (Form 9).
If a property is partially damaged, the landlord and the tenant may negotiate an agreement to reduce the rent until the premises are returned to the condition it was in before the disaster.
Any reduction in rent would depend on the severity and impact of the damage.
Any agreement should be put in writing and signed by both parties.
Mr Smith said a tenancy agreement could be ended early where the landlord and tenant agreed the premises were unliveable.
“A tenant or landlord can give the other party a notice formally ending the agreement because the property is unliveable, but this must be given within one month of the disaster occurring,” Mr Smith said.
“In cases where an outcome can’t be reached, the RTA offers a free dispute resolution service.’’
Mr Mander said renters who had nowhere to stay while their rental property was being repaired should contact their nearest Housing Service Centre to determine their eligibility for assistance.
At the same time the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) is currently assessing the impact of the Australia Day floods on its accredited agencies and providing advice and information wherever needed.
REIQ CEO Anton Kardash said that similar to 2011, REIQ members are also helping any displaced tenants as quickly as possible under the circumstances.
"The REIQ has provided advice and information to its membership on the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in emergency situations such as these,” he said.
“While some real estate agencies have been impacted by the floods, it is important for tenants to contact their property managers directly if they have any major issues with their rental properties.
“Major problems can only be solved if there is direct communication between tenants and property managers in the first instance.”