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Tenant rights: 6 rules you should know

By : 2017-06-08
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Tenancy disputes can turn into ugly, and costly, affairs—so it’s best to avoid them entirely. As a landlord, knowing the laws governing the legal rights of a tenant is the best way to stay on good terms.

Here are the most important tenant rights a landlord should know:

1. Keep the property in a reasonable state of repair

It’s the first point of the landlord’s responsibilities in the Residential Tenancies Act. Yet, while it seems a bit of a no-brainer, as many as 44 per cent of rental properties don’t measure up. These days, a “reasonable state of repair” means keeping your rental safe, warm and dry—and in line with the health, safety and building codes. Failing to do so could earn you a nasty fine—from $4,000 for not keeping mould under control to $30,000 for renting out unconsented buildings.

If damage or disrepair occurs to your rental property while it is tenanted, you are obligated to fit it—especially if the damage is likely to cause injury to those in the home. Fail to do so and you could find yourself going through a tenancy dispute—and receiving a nasty fine if you are found guilty by the Tenancy Tribunal.
 

2. Respect your tenant’s peace and privacy

Known in the Act as ‘quiet enjoyment’, you should respect your tenant’s privacy and right to live in peace. Surprise inspections or suddenly deciding to paint the house could quickly earn you a 14-day Breach of Act notice.

In many cases, these activities require you to consult with your tenant first and provide reasonable notice. To avoid disrupting your tenant, we recommend doing any major maintenance work—like house painting—between tenancies.

3. Do not enter the premises without notice

As a rule of thumb, call ahead first and save yourself the awkward situation of walking in on your tenant sitting on the sofa in their underwear. You might own the property, but entering the home without letting your tenant know in advance is still a breach of privacy. How would you feel to wake up to your landlord in your kitchen, or come home to someone in your lounge?

On the flip side, part of your responsibility as a landlord is to maintain the outside of your property (such as pruning trees). This means you are allowed to enter the grounds without notice. But just make sure you aren’t disrupting the peace of your tenant.

Under no circumstances should you use force (or threaten to use force), to get inside the home.

Inspections

If you want to pop over to inspect the inside of your rental, you must give 48 hours’ notice. And you can only perform an inspection once every four weeks. Read more about maintenance and inspection access.

4. Don’t interfere with services to the property

Just because your tenants are late with their rent doesn’t mean you can cut off their water, or disconnect their landline. To do so could get you a maximum fine of $1,000.

The services included under this rule are:

  • Water
  • Gas
  • Electricity
  • Telephone

The only time you can disrupt these services is to avoid danger or conduct maintenance.

5. Don’t evict your tenant without a court order

You can not personally evict your tenant. You must get a tenancy termination order from the Tenancy Tribunal. The amount of notice you must give will vary between fixed-term and periodic tenancies.

If your tenant has lodged a complaint about you or your property (for example, a 14-day notice for outstanding repairs), you cannot retaliate with an eviction notice—this is unlawful and the Tenancy Tribunal can fine you up to $4,000 for it.

If you are having problems with your tenant, try to resolve the issue first through Tenancy Services.

Read more: When can I apply to terminate a tenancy?

 

6. Don’t discriminate

Regardless of your opinions, you cannot refuse to rent your property to someone because of their race, gender, sexuality, age, family status, disability or any other of the 13 prohibited grounds outlined in the Human Rights Act.

Get more rental and property management advice in our free guide, 
The Landlord's Handbook.

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