The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2019 (“RTAA”) was passed on July 30, 2019 and came into effect on August 27, 2019. The RTAA addresses key issues that have implications for both landlord and tenant and includes the following: tenant liability for damage, insurance, contamination of premises and unlawful residential premises.
Tenant liability for damage
The RTAA provides that if tenants or their guests damage a rental property due to their careless behaviour, the tenant will have to pay the landlord a maximum of four weeks’ rent or the landlord’s insurance excess, whichever is the lesser.
The purpose of this change is to encourage tenants to look after the premises they are renting, while ensuring they are not responsible for the payment of unreasonable repair costs. It also ensures that landlords are not burdened with the entire repair cost as a result of their tenant’s damage to the premises.
However, tenants still remain responsible for the cost of intentional damage to the property.
Landlords must provide their tenants with a copy of their insurance details, including what the amount of the insurance policy excess is. In the case of an existing tenancy (pre August 27, 2019), the tenant can request this information from the landlord. If the landlord does not provide the information, or inform tenants of changes to the insurance details, the landlord may be fined up to $500.
Contamination of premises
Landlords can test for methamphetamine contamination (meth testing) while the rented premises is occupied, but need to give the tenant at least 48 hours’ notice. Landlords must notify their tenants they are carrying out a meth test and the tenant has the right to see the test results. The RTAA allows for regulations for determining the process for meth testing, the acceptable contamination levels, and the decontamination process. Landlords are not able to rent out a property they know is contaminated at an unacceptable level.
Unlawful residential premises
Under the RTAA, the definition of ‘residential premises’ is amended so that even if a premises cannot be legally lived in, such as a garage or industrial building, but is lived in or intended to be lived in, it will still fall within the definition of a residential premises. Therefore it will still be regulated under the RTAA and fall within the jurisdiction of the Tenancy Tribunal which means the Tenancy Tribunal can enforce the RTAA against landlords who breach the Act, regardless of whether the premises are legally permitted to be lived in.
If residential premises do not meet the requirements of the RTAA, the landlord may be liable to pay rent back to the tenant, the tenancy may be terminated, the landlord may be liable to the tenant for damages, or be subject to any other order the Tenancy Tribunal may make.
Both landlords and tenants need to be aware of their rights and obligations under the RTAA. If you have any questions regarding the RTAA please contact us.