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When and why an agent might have to act in the tenant’s interest

25 May 2020 Cameron Micallef
agent and tenant

It is common knowledge that agents should act in the best interest of landlords. However, COVID-19 has thrown a spanner into the mix, a government statement has explained.

In these uncertain times, NSW Fair Trading has explained the role of agents in helping both tenants and landlords through the pandemic. 

“Agents may be required to play more of an intermediary role between tenants and landlords to comply with the new tenancy laws and the government’s relief package,” the statement explained.

While highlighting that the real estate sector is just one of many that are going through tremendous changes, tenants also need protecting.

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“It’s important to understand the whole economy has changed under COVID-19 and the tenancy market has been significantly affected,” the statement continued.

“What was in the landlord’s best interests before COVID-19 may not apply now.”

Instead, NSW Fair Trading argues that agents need to help both tenants and landlords reach an agreement which is equitable for both parties.

Consideration should be given to whether maintaining an existing tenancy with changed terms may be more viable than seeking termination and re-letting the property.

NSW Fair Trading encourages agents to ensure:

  • The process for tenants is accessible and easy to understand.
  • Both parties are aware Fair Trading can help with dispute resolution if an agreement can’t be reached.
  • Correspondence is promptly communicated.
  • Any evidence required from tenants is reasonable and sufficient to show the person is COVID-19 impacted and has suffered a loss of household income.
  • Agreements for COVID-19-impacted tenants aren’t limited to deferring rent payments and can include variations of a tenant’s obligations such a reduced rent for an agreed period, reducing rent for the remainder of the lease term, or agreeing to break a lease agreement early due to financial hardship, with a reduction or waiver of the break fee.
  • The landlord is aware of available relief options.
  • Accurate documentation of interactions and discussions with landlords and tenants during negotiations. This will be especially important if the matter progresses to NCAT.
When and why an agent might have to act in the tenant’s interest
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