If you don’t hold a law degree, it can be pretty overwhelming to try and make sense of state tenancy laws. All that legal jargon can sound like another language, not to mention that the laws are constantly changing.
So, how do you really know if your property is on the up and up?
We did the homework, so you don’t have to. Instead, consider this article your hitchhiker's guide to all the things you need to know about the minimum standards for rental properties in NSW.
This is your easy-to-read digest on:
- Current state legislation
- What makes your property uninhabitable
- Staying compliant with the regulations regarding smoke alarms, pools and utilities
...all the things you need to know on how to keep your tenants happy while avoiding an unpleasant trip to NCAT.
Minimum housing standard NSW
The legislation wastes no time spelling out the fundamentals of what you need to do before starting a tenancy. For starters, you need to ensure your property is:
- Reasonably clean
- Reasonably fit to live in
But the state is fair – they accept your property doesn’t have to be in “perfect condition” – it still needs to be in a reasonable condition considering the property:
- Expected life
- Amount of rent being paid
But fundamentals aside, the question remains: what exactly are the rental property minimum standards in NSW?
The legislation boils it down to 7 property necessities:
- Structural soundness
- Adequate lighting (natural or artificial) in each room, excluding storage and garages
- Adequate ventilation
- Adequate supply of electricity or gas, and enough sockets for powering other appliances, heating and light sources
- Adequate drainage and plumbing
- Supply of hot and cold water suitable for drinking, washing and cleaning
- Bathroom facilities (toilet and washing facilities) that allow for user privacy
But be aware of the fine print!
Even if you’re on point with the 7 rental property minimum standards, other issues can still make your property unfit for a tenant to live in. If this is the case, get ready to make some necessary repairs so your property is up to scratch, or better yet, employ the services of a property management firm in NSW to keep your property well-maintained.
What makes a property uninhabitable in NSW?
While there is no one definition for what makes a property uninhabitable in NSW, you can still use the past decisions of the Tribunal and the Courts as a helpful guide. Accordingly, residential premises can be said to be unfit for habitation when:
- The life or health of the tenant is at risk
- Structural and health issues pose a threat to the tenants’ safety
- The state of disrepair is such that injury is likely to occur from ordinary use of the premises
Willis and Bowring solicitors offer some examples of what this might look like in practice:
- Windows and doors painted shut, preventing escape in the event of a fire
- Dangerous linoleum on the kitchen floor
- Dangerously high lead levels
The takeaway here is pretty clear: make sure your property is safe for the tenant to live in!
Smoke Alarm Legislation NSW
Fire isn’t all bad – it can cook a steak to perfection and send plumes of vanilla incense wafting around your room. But what you don’t want is to have your property get a little too acquainted with the stuff. That’s why NSW has smoke alarm legislation.
To make sure you’re hitting those legal checkpoints, you need to ensure:
- Smoke alarms are in working order
- Smoke alarms are checked every year to confirm they’re still working
- Smoke alarms batteries are replaced every year
- When a smoke alarm becomes faulty that it is repaired (including replacing the battery) within 2 business days
Along with these items of smoke alarm legislation, you’re also required to install a smoke alarm on every level of the property, specifically in hallways near bedrooms.
It is a two-way street though. If your tenant notices the smoke alarm is acting up or breaking down, it’s their responsibility to let you know.
Pool Legislation NSW
When it comes to pools, the state doesn’t mess around. There are a fair few regulations you’ll want to be on top of if you want to avoid a hefty penalty of up to $5500 for non-compliance.
First off, who do these laws apply to?
Well, if you’re an owner with a pool or spa with a depth greater than 30cm intended for swimming, wading, paddling or other aquatic activities – this applies to you. (And, yes, that does include inflatable pools).
As for the legislation, let’s break it down into 3 categories:
Registration: Owners must go online to register their pools at the NSW Swimming Pool Register
- Pools need to be fitted with a child-resistant safety barrier that separates them from other residential buildings and any place adjoining the property
- Doors and gates to the pool should be kept closed at all times
- Surrounding fences need to be designed, constructed, installed and maintained in accordance with Australian standards
- A CPR sign should always be displayed near the pool, be in good condition and easily readable from 3 meters
On top of these regulations, there’s one more important obligation for owners. When you sign on a tenant, be sure to provide them with a copy of the certificate of compliance. If you want to get your hands on a certificate, get in touch with your local council or a registered swimming pool inspector so they can inspect your barriers and give you the tick approval.
For the full rundown of what you need to know, you can check out the Fair Trading website.
Utilities Legislation NSW
The last thing you want is to have the utility bills roll in, only to get into a game of finger-pointing with your tenant over who should pay for what. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just know who pays for which utilities from the get-go?
Here’s a simple guide that should make things a bit clearer for both of you.
Electricity, gas (non-bottled) and oil: Generally speaking, the tenant will have to pay for the electricity, gas and oil they use. The only time the owner pays for these ongoing utilities is if they are not separately metered, like in the case of a granny flat or in a sharehouse. However, owners are always responsible for the initial installation cost and connection to electricity, gas and/or oil services.
Water: There are 3 criteria that must be satisfied before you can hand over the water bill to your tenant:
- The property is separately metered
- The property has water efficiency measures (e.g. showerheads and taps that reduce flow rate)
- The tenant must be presented with a copy of the bill declaring the water usage charges; and given at least 21 days to pay, with the request to pay the charge being within 3 months of the issue date of the bill
Telephone, television and internet: Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, there is no current requirement that says landlords have to provide telephone, TV or internet connections with the property.
However, you’ll need to make sure that the existing sockets are in reasonable condition for the tenant to use, unless the tenancy agreement says otherwise.
As for your tenant wanting to install a new phone line or internet connection, they’ll need to get your consent first. But bear in mind, owners can’t unreasonably refuse to give the go-ahead in these cases. If you do give them the tick of approval, it’s your tenant that will have to pay for the installation (and subsequent repairs to the connections), unless you agree to pay or contribute to the cost.
Want to stay up-to-date with all things real estate?
Subscribe to our FREE quarterly newsletter for the best property content on the internet!
Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is for general informational purposes only. All information is provided in good faith; however, we do not account for specific situations, facts or circumstances. As such, we make no representation or warranty of any kind whatsoever, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability or completeness of any information presented.
This blog may also contain links to other sites or content belonging to or originating from third parties. We do not investigate or monitor such external links for accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability or completeness, and therefore, we shall not be liable and/or held responsible for any information contained therein.