Real estate agents and landlords have been warned about their legal responsibilities following reports that tenants in flood affected areas of NSW are being threatened with eviction if they don’t help with the cleanup of the property.
“Fair Trading has received reports of landlords and real estate agents demanding that tenants clean up flood damage and undertake repairs,” NSW Fair Trading minister Anthony Roberts said.
“There have also been reports of threatened evictions if tenants do not undertake repairs or cleaning.”
“If a rented home suffers damage through natural disaster, tenants and landlords or agents should communicate regularly and work together to make the best of an unusual and difficult situation.”
Mr Roberts also warned against using unlicensed builders for repairs, regardless of how urgent they may be.
“Even in these exceptional circumstances, people should not use unlicensed businesses or individuals for any home building repairs,” Mr Roberts said.
“Trade licenses are able to be checked online or by phone.”
Tenants and landlords should initially establish whether a tenancy will continue.
“If the home is only partly uninhabitable, tenants may wish to stay while repairs are being carried out,” Mr Roberts said. “They should only consider doing this if the damage is relatively minor and there is no ongoing safety risk.
“If the home has been more seriously damaged or has become totally uninhabitable, another option is for tenants to move out temporarily and return once the residence is livable again.
“Landlords or agents are not obliged to find or pay for tenants’ temporary accommodation.
“Tenants and landlords or agents can also decide to formally end the agreement and re-sign a new agreement after repairs are complete.
“If the tenancy is ended permanently, no rent is payable from the day tenants move out. Any rent already paid in advance must be fully refunded.”
Mr Robert said if tenants move out or decides to live in partially damaged premises, the rent should be waived or reduced based on the level of damage. This should be put in writing, he added.
“If the tenancy is to continue, the landlord or agent, preferably with the tenant being present, should inspect the premises and document repairs needed,” Mr Roberts continued.
“Tenants should discuss with the landlord or agent the timetable for repairs, recognising there may be unavoidable delays because of a demand for insurance assessments and qualified tradespeople in the area.
“A landlord is not obliged to compensate tenants for any damage to furniture or personal belongings arising from a natural disaster.
“Serious storm, fire or flood damage is considered as urgent repair work and should be done as soon as possible. If tenants believe the landlord or agent is not acting quickly enough on needed repairs, they can apply to the CTTT or arrange for the work to be done and be reimbursed.
“After a natural disaster most repairs needed are likely to be classed as urgent repairs. The landlord or agent does not have to give tenants any minimum period of notice before sending tradespeople to do this work.
“In normal situations tenants must be given at least two days notice if tradespeople need to access the premises to carry out non-urgent repairs. Tenants should talk to the landlord or agent and agree on a shorter period of notice in order to get the work completed as soon as possible.”