Tenants Rights and Responsibilities in Australia Explained

Published 13 December 2020 by Team :Different

One of the biggest challenges facing investment property owners is trusting a tenant with their prized investment. The constant possibility of a tenant trashing the property, refusing to pay rent, or engaging in long battles over repairs can be a nightmare for property owners.

And in the event that damage is done - in the form of cracked windows, pest-infested kitchens, or broken appliances - who is responsible for the property maintenance and repair costs? While Australian Property Law states the specific liabilities of each party in situations like these, this crucial knowledge is too often overlooked.

This complex web of tenants’ rights and responsibilities can be incredibly confusing and challenging to wrap your head around. Today, we’ll uncover some of the most common problems and questions surrounding this issue so that you’re crystal-clear about what you’re entitled to, and what your obligations are. This way, if disputes do arise, you’ll be able to rest assured knowing you’ve covered all your bases. 

State-by-state breakdown of tenant and landlord responsibilities

For a property owner with their hard-earned investment on the line, it goes without saying that any foreseeable problems should be prevented from the outset. The most effective way to prevent those dreaded tenant-owner disputes is to make sure both you and your tenants are on the same page about your respective rights and responsibilities - from the very beginning.

“Understanding the difference between fair wear and tear, and damage that needs to be rectified, is key in this. This should be outlined very early on. You need to come to terms with something both parties can agree on.” 

Shannyn Laird, Head of Customer Experience at :Different

The most basic responsibilities you can expect your tenant to fulfill include:

  • Respecting the neighbours
  • Keeping the property clean 
  • Notifying you of any maintenance issues 
  • Respecting the details of the tenancy agreement

At the same time, there are also a number of things that your tenants can expect from you. These include: 

  • Ensuring the property is clean, secure, and livable upon move-in. This includes conducting pre-lease pest control, gas & electricity installation, security and lock setups, and smoke alarm maintenance 
  • Keeping the property in the same condition as when the tenant moved in 
  • Responding to tenants’ maintenance & repair requests in a timely manner 
  • Respecting tenants’ right to quiet enjoyment of the property 
  • Ensuring a constant utility supply

However, tenants’ rights and responsibilities vary from state to state in Australia, meaning that you need to take extra care especially if you have properties in more than one state.

Here’s a breakdown of the most common responsibilities that trip up Aussie owners and tenants to help you get a sense of what’s expected in each state:

Tenant and landlord responsibilities by state in Australia

Tenant/Owners Rights & Responsibilities

NSW

VIC

QLD

SA

WA

Notice period for routine inspections.

7 days.

24 hours STL* 14 days LTL.*

7 days.

7-14 days.

7-14 days.

Advance rent (before the tenancy starts).

2 weeks rent.

4 weeks rent (if weekly rent is below $350).

4 weeks rent.

2 weeks rent.

2 weeks rent.

Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarm repairs are the owner's responsibility.

The tenant can change smoke alarm batteries after informing the owner.

Owner's responsibility.

Owner's responsibility.

Owner's responsibility.

Owner's responsibility.

Pest control.

Tenant is liable if caused during tenancy (e.g. kitchen left dirty).

Owner liable if caused due to pre-existing condition (e.g. hole in the wall).

Tenant is liable if caused during tenancy (e.g. kitchen left dirty).

Owner liable if caused due to pre-existing condition (e.g. hole in the wall).

Tenant is liable if caused during tenancy (e.g. kitchen left dirty).

Owner liable if caused due to pre-existing condition (e.g. hole in the wall).

Tenant is liable if caused during tenancy (e.g. kitchen left dirty).

Owner liable if caused due to pre-existing condition (e.g. hole in the wall).

Tenant is liable if caused during tenancy (e.g. kitchen left dirty).

Owner liable if caused due to pre-existing condition (e.g. hole in the wall).

Moulding.

Tenant liable if caused during tenancy (e.g. not ventilating bathrooms after showers).

Owner liable if caused due to pre-existing condition (e.g. defective window or ventilator).

Tenant is liable if caused during tenancy (e.g. kitchen left dirty).

Owner liable if caused due to pre-existing condition (e.g. hole in the wall).

Tenant is liable if caused during tenancy (e.g. kitchen left dirty).

Owner liable if caused due to pre-existing condition (e.g. hole in the wall).

Tenant is liable if caused during tenancy (e.g. kitchen left dirty).

Owner liable if caused due to pre-existing condition (e.g. hole in the wall).

Tenant is liable if caused during tenancy (e.g. kitchen left dirty).

Owner liable if caused due to pre-existing condition (e.g. hole in the wall).

Security & Locks.

Owner needs to be in agreement with the tenant before changes.

Owner needs to be in agreement with the tenant before changes.

Owner needs to be in agreement with the tenant before changes.

Owner needs to be in agreement with the tenant before changes.

Owner needs to be in agreement with the tenant before changes.

Urgent repairs.

Owner's responsibility.

If the owner or property manager has not responded to the tenant's request within a reasonable amount of time, the tenant can carry out repairs and be reimbursed up to $1000 by the owner.

Owner's responsibility.

If the owner or property manager has not responded to the tenant's request within a reasonable amount of time, the tenant can carry out repairs and be reimbursed up to $1800 by the owner.

Owner's responsibility.

If the owner or property manager has not responded to the tenant's request within a reasonable amount of time, the tenant can carry out repairs and be reimbursed up to 2 weeks' rent by the owner.

Owner's responsibility.

If the owner or property manager has not responded to the tenant's request within a reasonable amount of time, the tenant can carry out repairs and be reimbursed by the owner for any reasonable costs.

Owner's responsibility.

If the owner or property manager has not responded to the tenant's request within 48 hours, the tenant can carry out repairs and be reimbursed by the owner for any reasonable costs.

*STL - Short term lease, LTL - Long term lease.

If you’re looking for the fine print for a more specific scenario, you might find it helpful to refer to information provided by the relevant authorities in each state: 

Unhappy with your current property manager?

Switching property managers is easier than you think. At :Different we handle the break-up for you. Find out how.

Book A Call With Our Local Property Experts Today

The guide to conducting rental inspections 

A lot of tenancy disputes arise when move-out day rolls around, because that’s often when people realise that there were issues that hadn’t been rectified early enough. To make sure that the property’s being maintained as it should, owners and property managers are entitled to conduct routine inspections.

Why is it important to conduct property inspections? 

  1. To ensure the tenant is taking care of the property. 
  2. To identify and address underlying repair/maintenance issues.
  3. To carry out urgent repairs or appliance replacements.

What do property managers look for during an inspection?

It’s important to know what to keep an eye out for during property inspections so that you know you’re covering all your bases. Here’s a rental inspection checklist containing the most noteworthy things that property managers look out for: 

  • Check for any damage or dampness in the walls.
  • Check the condition of appliances and safety features like smoke alarms.
  • Check wet areas for issues like leaks or mould.
  • Ensure the property is reasonably clean and undamaged.
  • Ensure that gardens are maintained, and the lawn is mowed, watered, and weeded.
  • Make sure the number of tenants is restricted to the names on the lease.
  • Confirm that the rental agreement is being respected, with no unapproved pets on the property.

While routine inspections aren’t as detailed as ingoing and outgoing property inspections, you might find it useful to refer to your previous inspection report while you’re doing your walkthrough of the property. For owners, keeping this report on hand is a helpful way to remind themselves of the areas they should pay particular attention to; for tenants, it can be used as a rental inspection checklist to prepare for a routine home inspection.

In the case that you don’t have your report at the ready, here’s a tenancy condition report from NSW Fair Trading which you can use for reference.

Rental inspections: tenants’ rights by state in Australia

While owners and property managers are entitled to conduct routine inspections, each state has its own restrictions on how often these can happen. After all, the property is legally the tenants’ home, and their space and privacy need to be respected. 

So, how often can you inspect a rental property?

Here’s a quick breakdown of the maximum number of routine home inspections you can have in a year, by state:

State

Restrictions on Routine Inspections

NSW; QLD; WA; TAS; NT

Up to 4 times a year

VIC

Twice a year, but not for the first 3 months (once a year if it's a long-term lease).

SA

Once every 4 weeks

ACT

Twice a year

Apart from keeping the number of routine inspections to a reasonable minimum, there are also certain rules and boundaries to follow. Before knocking on your tenants’ door with your property inspection checklist in hand, you need to make sure you’ve given them the right amount of notice. This can range from 24 hours to 14 days, depending on the state - but when in doubt, refer to the table above where we’ve broken down the responsibilities of tenants and owners by state. 

There are also certain boundaries to respect while you’re walking through the property. Shannyn shares the pointers that property managers keep in mind when conducting an inspection:

“We don’t take photos of personal belongings. We need to access every room, and the tenant is more than welcome to be home. The big picture is that we’re mainly there to make sure that they’re looking after the property in a respectful manner and identify any pressing maintenance that we see.”

Shannyn Laird, Head of Customer Experience at :Different 

Save with our flat & fair $30/week (plus GST) management fee

Join :Different by easily signing up online & start saving today.

What Can I Get For $30 A Week?

How do property managers look after the rights and responsibilities of owners and tenants?

For everyday owners and tenants who aren’t well-versed in tenancy law and legal jargon, property managers act as the middlemen who ensure that both parties uphold their respective ends of the agreement.

On the one hand, property managers will manage the owner’s legal duties to the tenant, to ensure that they’re well looked-after. After all, no owner would be thrilled at the prospect of going to the tribunal for a tenancy complaint.

On the other, they’ll also make sure that the tenant is respectful of the property so that the owner isn’t faced with excessive maintenance costs or complaints from the neighbours.

How can property managers help?

  1. They make sure you and your tenants are on the same page 

    They ensure that, prior to the tenancy, both you and your tenants are crystal-clear about your respective rights and responsibilities. What’s fair wear and tear, and what’s considered damage? Who is responsible if mould develops in the bedrooms? By making sure that you’re on the same page, you’ll reduce the chance of disputes down the track. 
  2. They nip bad practices in the bud

    They point out possible problems the tenant can fix to prevent future damages, such as dirty kitchens, insufficient ventilation in bathrooms, trampolines on grass, etc.
  3. They can prevent any out of lease activities from happening

    They look for unapproved pets or tenants living on your property and keep a check on any illegal activities taking place on the premises.
  4. They help avert future conflicts between you and the tenant

    They keep a check on the property’s cleanliness and raise possible maintenance and damage issues that can be fixed during the tenancy to reduce the chance of end of lease disputes.
  5. They make sure the legal rights of tenants are maintained without conflict

    They help maintain boundaries during rental property inspections and maintenance checks, manage any payment issues, and listen to any problems that might arise, keeping tenants happy and paying rent over the long term!
  6. They make sure you’ve covered all your bases 

    They make sure your tenants’ rights are respected to the tee, so that you’ve upheld your end of the tenancy agreement and won’t be liable if any conflicts do arise.

Property managers are your mediator with tenants 

When you’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a property, chances are you probably feel emotionally attached to it. You might feel uncomfortable with the dirty clothes your tenants have left scattered in the laundry, or the layer of dust that’s settling on top of the microwave, because that’s not how you would treat your property if you were living in it. 

However, if they’re not issues that will cause damage to the property, this is something that owners will need to work through. As you can see, you get a lot for your property management fees.

“Owners have to be aware that an investment property is exactly that - an investment. It’s important to not be too emotionally invested and realise that you can’t tell the tenant how to live, or delve deep into their personal belongings.”

Shannyn Laird, Head of Customer Experience at :Different

As an owner, you need to understand that the property is legally the tenant’s home and their space and privacy needs to be respected. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they’re free to trash the property - property managers ensure that tenants are upholding their end of the agreement, while helping you maintain the necessary distance to keep your emotions out of the picture.

At the same time, a good property manager will be responsive to tenant concerns and identify any maintenance issues during home inspections. Sometimes, small issues that wouldn’t have bugged you if you lived there (like a temperamental oven or loose floorboards) might actually be big pain points for the tenant. Repairing issues as they arise can help you keep maintenance costs low in the long run, and also ensure that your tenants are happy in their home.

Finally, if disputes do arise, property managers can step in to negotiate and resolve issues like late payments, contract violations, and if needed, tenant evictions

At :Different, we ensure that tenants’ rights are expected, while prioritising the concerns of our primary stakeholder - the property owner, their investment, and their peace of mind.

How :Different looks after the rights and responsibilities of owners and tenants

One thing that we do differently at :Different, is that we use tech to help owners and tenants communicate more efficiently about any issues that may arise. When it comes to looking after the rights and responsibilities of owners and your tenants, our in-house tech makes it easier for both parties to uphold their respective obligations. 

How? 

Our tenant app allows tenants to log maintenance issues by simply entering a short description and including photos/videos of the problem. Once verified by the maintenance team as a legitimate issue, owners then receive a notification on the owner app to approve the request. 

This means that tenants are easily able to report issues as they arise to prevent any long-term damage, while owners can rectify the issues more efficiently to ensure the tenants have a comfortable home to live in. 

By integrating these features into easy-to-use apps, :Different makes sure that both owners’ and tenants’ rights are respected at all times, resolved quickly, and that this is all done in accordance with state and federal law.

Finally, Shannyn explains the most fundamental, but no doubt the most important way that we ensure a hassle-free experience for both owners and tenants:

“We make sure everyone understands their rights and responsibilities early on in the relationship so that everyone is on the same page. We put a lot of focus on reaching agreements that everyone is happy with when disputes do occur.”

Shannyn Laird, Head of Customer Experience at :Different

Full service property management for $30/week (plus GST)

See what's included in our flat & fair property management fee

What Can I Get For $30 A Week?
Recent Posts
:Different updatesA guide to the tenant app
Property managementDo I Need An Agent to Rent Out My Property?
Property managementIs it time to say goodbye to common fees for property management?