New Reforms to the NSW Residential Tenancy Act


Tenancy-Agreement 650 x 488

The Residential Tenancy Amendment (Review) Bill 2018 has now been passed by Parliament.

The Bill has been designed to ensure the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 continues to protect both tenants and landlords. Whilst the Bill has been passed by Parliament, the next step is the development of the regulations, being the specific requirements for monitoring and enforcing the law. The regulations will also answer many of the questions raised by the Bill including the start date for the reforms.

What are the changes?

Minimum Standards
There are rules of what makes a property fit for living. These include:

  • Property is to be structurally sound.
  • Each room must have adequate lighting and electricity outlets
  • Property must have electricity, gas or oil (dependant on availability), proper plumbing and drainage, ventilation and bathroom facilities in a separate room including toilet.
  • All of the above-mentioned should be free of dampness/mould and in a good state of repair

Disclosure of information
If the property is a strata lot (ie apartment, townhouse, unit) a copy of the strata by-laws must be given to the tenant before they enter into a tenancy agreement.

Condition reports
Landlords and agents will have the option of giving the tenant either 2 copies of a written report or one electronic version on signing the tenancy agreement.

Landlords information statement
Landlords will need to sign a new form acknowledging that they know their rights and responsibilities as a landlord. The agent will need to have a signed hard copy of the document before they can sign a tenancy agreement on behalf of the landlord. This form has yet to be created.

Landlord’s remedies on abandonment
The break fee payable by a tenant on a fixed lease will change to,

  • 4 weeks rent if less than ¼ of the lease has expired
  • 3 weeks rent if more than a ¼ but less than a half of the term has expired
  • 2 weeks rent if more than ½ but less than ¾ of the term has expired
  • 1 weeks rent if more than ¾ of the lease has expired.

Termination notices for non-payment of rent or charges
The landlord will be able to issue a termination notice when a tenant has not paid rent, water usage or utility charges for more than 14 days.

Smoke Alarms
Landlords are fully responsible for Smoke Alarms. A tenant that carries out repairs to the smoke alarm, such as change of batteries, is entitled to be reimbursed.

Repairs/Alterations
Tenants will be allowed to make some changes to the property without needing to seek permission. A list will be included in the regulations.

Rent Increases
Tenants on a periodic tenancy agreement, i.e. where the fixed term has passed, can only be given one rent increase in any 12 month period.

Domestic Violence

Termination
If a tenant is the victim of domestic violence, they will be able to give notice to vacate the property effective immediately, even if the tenant is in a fixed lease, without penalty. A tenant would be considered a ‘domestic violence victim’ if they have a current DVO or they are co-tenant/ person related to the tenant with the DVO that lives on the premises. A tenant would also be eligible if they hold a declaration from a medical practitioner that states domestic violence.

Liability of tenant or co-tenant for actions of others
If domestic violence occurs on the premises and damage is done to the property as a result, the tenant, as the victim of domestic violence, will not be responsible for the cost of any repairs. Any co-tenants to the lease may also be exempted.

Marketing
If a tenanted rental property is due to be marketed for sale or lease, the agent has only one opportunity within the 28 day period before marketing begins to take interior photos. Tenants must be given fair notice to enable them to remove any personal effects they would not like presented in the photos.

A landlord will need written consent from the tenant to publish photos where any of the tenant’s possessions are visible. This consent cannot be unreasonably withheld unless under the circumstances of Domestic violence.

The new tenancy reforms create a greater need for Landlord Insurance. The changes to the break lease penalties could mean higher losses from tenant abandonment and the allowances to victims of domestic violence means that landlords will also become victims.

With the landlord becoming fully responsible for smoke alarms, it will be essential to use the services of a specialist smoke alarm inspection service.

As always, we will need to read the fine print once it has been written and released as law.

About Us

George Astudillo is the founder of Property Quarters, an agency that values communication and great relationships with its landlords.

George now has more than 30 years in real estate, including 15 years as the owner of a national real estate franchise. He’s also an accredited auctioneer and is the author of “The Landlord Mindset”, a book with his best tips to help landlords look after their investments. His book has been quoted in the SMH, The Huffington Post and The Age.

As the founder of Property Quarters, George takes great care in looking after his landlord’s investments. Having seen it all and worked with may landlords and tenants, he’s a strong mediator and negotiator and knows how to navigate through property legislation.

George is trusted by his landlords to advise on the financial management of their investments. He’s put in place proven processes to ensure each property he looks after is managed effectively to retain its value, quality tenants and rental income.

If you’re looking for a property manager who thinks like a landlord and whose business is built on tested processes, contact us by clicking HERE.

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Copyright © 2016, www.propertyquarters.com.au

Rent Reviews- 5 Points to Consider


A rent review is essential to check whether it’s time to increase the rent or leave it alone.

I’m going to stick my neck out here and state that most people hate losing money. You know, you buy a big-ticket item and then a couple of days later find that you could have bought it elsewhere for substantially less money. Ouch.

In real estate investing, there are many ways to lose money and they all hurt. But I’ve noticed there is one way to lose money that investors don’t even notice – Rent Increases. Many owners (and their agents) don’t have a schedule and procedure to review the rent. This means that money is being lost and you don’t even know about it until it’s too late.

For a lease to be eligible for a rent increase it MUST NOT be in a fixed term. Tenants that have signed a 6 month or 12 month lease are exempt from rent increases until the fixed term of the lease expires and becomes a periodic lease (or continuing agreement).

So how do you check if it’s time for a rent review?

There are 5 key points to consider,

1. Timing

Outside of a fixed term lease of less than 2 years, NSW legislation says you can make increases as frequently as you like. It is recommended to conduct a ‘Rent Review’ annually at the same time you are performing a routine inspection. This will keep you in tune to the movements of the rental market and your tenants will be conditioned to small increases over time.

If your tenants are on a fixed term, a good time would be 70 days before the fixed term ends. If your tenant is worth keeping, offering a new lease term may be a good idea.

2.Size

Smaller increases are preferable over larger jumps. A high sudden increase will feel like a shock and may spur the tenant to consider moving or apply to the tribunal for a review.

3. Rental Market- Comparable Rentals

To conduct the review, we simply look at how many similar properties are currently available and what is the asking rental, and what similar have properties recently been leased for. Knowing what’s happening in the area is critical, you don’t want to lose the tenant for a few dollars and then find the property is vacant for weeks.

Keep in mind that tenants generally look for value when choosing a rental property. Increasing the rent based solely on the level of your expenses is not a good strategy.

4. Condition of the Premises

In performing a rent review it’s also important to see how the property has changed. Is it still looking like it did when the tenant moved in or is it starting to look a little tired? When looking at comparable properties make sure the level of finish and condition is similar.

5. Correct Notice

NSW Legislation states that we must give the tenant 60 days’ notice plus 4 days for delivery by post unless you have authority from the tenant to use email to deliver notices.

The notice must include the amount the new rent will be, the day the new rent amount will take affect and be signed by either the landlord or agent.

Managing investment properties require thorough schedules, take a look at our previous blogs ‘Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail’ or ‘Budgeting and Expenses’.

If you would like help with conducting a rent review or would like to know what your property could rent for in today’s current market, call George from Property Quarters on 0412 330 588. You will be provided with a free and no obligation, detailed report on the rental market in your area and where your property fits in. Alternatively you can leave a message here and one of us will be in touch with you.

About Us

George Astudillo is the founder of Property Quarters, an agency that values communication and great relationships with its landlords.

George now has more than 30 years in real estate, including 15 years as the owner of a national real estate franchise. He’s also an accredited auctioneer and is the author of “The Landlord Mindset”, a book with his best tips to help landlords look after their investments. His book has been quoted in the SMH, The Huffington Post and The Age.

As the founder of Property Quarters, George takes great care in looking after his landlord’s investments. Having seen it all and worked with may landlords and tenants, he’s a strong mediator and negotiator and knows how to navigate through property legislation.

George is trusted by his landlords to advise on the financial management of their investments. He’s put in place proven processes to ensure each property he looks after is managed effectively to retain its value, quality tenants and rental income.

If you’re looking for a property manager who thinks like a landlord and whose business is built on tested processes, contact us by clicking HERE.

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Copyright © 2016, www.propertyquarters.com.au

Marketing Your Rental Property – The 5 Essentials


Laptop property search

Marketing is how you let potential tenants know your property is available.

The goal of marketing is to attract the right tenant that would love to rent your property. Ideally, we would like to see more than one tenant apply for the property, as this will give you choice.

Once you have decided on the asking price it’s time to begin marketing. So where do you start?

Here are 5 points to consider:

1. Disclosure
While rules on disclosure vary from state to state, it is important to make sure you are not knowingly making any misleading or deceptive statements or promises. You need to disclose the following,

  • Any repairs that are needing to be made after the tenant moves in.
  • Whether you intend to sell the property and have prepared a contract in readiness. This is necessary in some states.
  • Any material facts: This includes whether the property is prone to bushfire, flooding, health risks such as lead paint or asbestos on the premises and any violent crimes that may have occurred.

Your marketing must not state or imply that you wish to exclude possible tenants (either directly or indirectly) because of their: Race, sex, pregnancy, disability, sexuality, sexual preference, or age.

2. Copywriting
Good copywriting is an art. Using words to describe a property that are accurate and enticing is not easy. Tenants are looking for lifestyle, so start by converting the physical features of the property into word pictures that have feeling.

  • ‘Glorious, light-filled rooms’
  • ‘Sparkling kitchen and bathrooms’
  • ‘Beautifully-proportioned bedrooms’
  • ‘Outdoor area perfect for entertaining’

The challenge is not to sound repetitive or dull.

It’s a balancing act of giving the necessary information without going over the top or being misleading. Nothing is more upsetting to potential tenants than taking the time to inspect a property and then being disappointed by inaccuracies in the marketing. If you advertise harbour views or glimpses, make sure they are easily viewed or glimpsed.

3. Photography
A picture paints a thousand words, so what are your photos saying about your property?

Photography is playing a larger role in real estate rentals. Have a quick look at some property websites to see what you’re up against. Start with the Sales sections – you’ll quickly see that professional-looking photos make a property look amazing. Then look through the rentals.

Many tenants don’t even read the description; they judge the property from the images. How do you want your property to appear on a big screen?

The limitation on a typical digital camera is the focal length of the lens. A wide angle lens will let you fit more of the scene into the frame. This is critical with internal photography, as you are often limited with space to manoeuvre.

Good, professional looking photos make a significant impact on the success of your marketing.

For tips on taking excellent real estate photography see our previous blog “7 Tips For Great Real Estate Photography”.

4. Floorplan
Floorplans have been used in selling real estate for many years. From a rental perspective, a floorplan is an easy way to differentiate your property from the competition and provides a very effective memory jogger for potential tenants of how the property flows.

They are a useful tool that tenants can take home to imagine and plan the placement of furniture. By doing this, the tenant starts the process of mentally moving into the property.

5. Advertising
Once you have your marketing materials in place, the next decision is how you will advertise your property.

The Internet has become the place to look for rental property, now well surpassing print media publications. The largest two Australian websites are realestate.com.au and domain.com.au. These two represent the bulk of property in Australia, both in sales and rentals, and are the first places that tenants look. These two websites have convenient smart phone applications that are used by the majority of those routinely looking for a rental.

The first few weeks of marketing is vital and every week your investment is vacant counts as lost rent. By following the right steps you can rest assured knowing you will have the right tenant in no time.

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Copyright © 2018, www.propertyquarters.com.au

Landlord Insurance- Manage Your Risk


Proof of Identity checklist image

Landlord insurance is your investment property safety net and should be considered a ‘must have’.

It will protect you, your family and your property from potential financial difficulties, thereby lowering your investment risk.

Nobody knows what’s around the corner. Situations change and good tenants can also change under specific circumstances. You don’t want the events in your tenants’ lives to consequently have an adverse impact on yours.

Looking for the appropriate insurance cover can be confusing and time-consuming. Take your time deciding as above all you don’t want to find out you are not covered when you need it most.

The following is a guide to the different types of cover and what they entail.

Building insurance covers:

  • Replacement cost of the building;
  • Demolition and removal of debris;
  • Locks and keys; and
  • New structures to comply with all statutory requirements.

If you own an apartment, building insurance is paid through your quarterly fees. Wallpaper and paint may not be included though and should therefor be included in your contents cover.  Other items that can be added separately are things such as air-conditioning, lighting and flooring.

Contents insurance covers:

  • Carpet and other flooring
  • Light fittings
  • Window finishes
  • Manchester and linen (if supplied)
  • Any furniture itemised in the tenancy agreement
  • Kitchenware cabinets and appliances
  • Bathroom vanity, cabinetry and shower screens
  • Tap ware
  • Tiling, paint and wallpaper
  • Household goods such as gardening equipment
  • Washing machines and dryers
  • Potted plants
  • Portable pools, spas and equipment

In an apartment, make sure you know which items are not covered by the strata building insurance as you may want to include them in your own insurance. In the event of fire elsewhere in the  building, your unit may be affected by smoke and water damage consequently needing new paint and carpet, or at the very least cleaning as a result.

Events

There is a wide variety of events that can be covered, including:

  • Accidental loss or damage
  • Malicious damage
  • Theft
  • Fire or explosion
  • Lightning
  • Earthquake
  • Riot or civil commotion
  • Water damage – leaks, rain, floods and tsunamis
  • Oil heater leakage
  • Accidental glass breakage
  • Storm or rainwater
  • Electric motor burn out
  • Impact from aircraft, trains, automobiles, space debris, satellites, falling trees or branches, TV antennae, satellite dishes or radio masts

Keep your property safe from unnecessary damage by reading our previous blog: Winter is Coming- A Rental Property Checklist.

Check policy exclusions carefully. For example, some policies do not cover:

  • Accidental damage caused by the tenants
  • Theft by the tenant
  • Damage by the tenant’s pets
  • Tsunamis or other actions by the sea or rivers

Loss of rent

This covers you for loss of rent in the event that the property is not habitable and cannot be leased due to any of the events listed above.

It also covers any rent default by the tenant. However, there are usually conditions attached to a rent default claim, so check the conditions carefully.

When choosing a good tenant there are a few things to consider in order to maximise your financial return. See our blog: 3 Keys to Choosing the Right Tenant.

Public liability

This relates to your legal liability as the owner. It is in regards to an event at your investment property which results in death or injury to other people or damage to other people’s property in or at your investment property.

Consider a minimum public liability cover of no less than twenty million dollars.

No matter what your appetite for risk is, having the right Landlord Insurance goes a long way to creating peace of mind.
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Copyright © 2016, www.propertyquarters.com.au

Routine Inspections- How to Keep Your Property Looking Great


Photo of a sunny room

You should be inspecting your property twice a year.

During these inspections, you are looking for repair and maintenance issues and ensuring the tenant is looking after the property.

An accumulation of dirt, together with a cluttered and untidy lifestyle, will accelerate wear and tear. This means appliances may break down more often and will need replacing sooner. This also applies to carpets and painting – resulting in higher costs.

With a new tenant, schedule the first appointment by the end of the third month. This will give the tenant a little time to settle in and you can see how they keep house.

Give the relevant notice, which in NSW is 14 days in writing, and arrange a mutually acceptable time. Your relationship with the tenant is important, so try hard to fit in with his routine; most tenants aren’t too fussed about allowing you access and in some cases they may not wish to attend.

Keep this inspection informal and quick. If you have chosen your tenant well, the property should look great, but if you see that the property is being poorly looked after, you are well within your rights to request the property be brought up to standard. It is a condition of the lease to keep the property reasonably clean, meaning that the tenant should not be causing damage or excessive wear and tear. You should also expect it to be tidy enough that all areas are accessible for regular cleaning. Give the tenant seven days to clean the property to a reasonable standard and arrange to return for another inspection.

If the property is still not appropriately clean, discuss the situation with the tenant. At this stage, take photos as a record, as you may need them later. Then, if all else fails, you can treat this situation as a breach of the agreement and give the tenant a termination notice.

If the property is clean and you’re happy with the presentation, diarise another inspection as permissible in your state. The second inspection should take place six months later or about three months before the tenancy agreement expires. This time the inspection should be more thorough – again looking at the presentation of the property and at any maintenance and repairs that may be needed.

If the lease is approaching or past the end of the fixed term, you should also use this time to consider any rental increases.

When sending out the “Notice of Inspection” attach a simple form that the tenant can fill in recording matters requiring attention or repair. Usually, the tenant is aware of most of the issues with the property and it is a great help to note them down.

Tenants will undoubtedly at some stage ask for alterations to be made to your property, for more information on how to deal with these requests see our previous blog “Has Your Tenant Asked to Make Changes to Your Property”.

This is also a good time to update the tenant’s contact details.

Once at the property, start inside and work your way through every room with the following checklist to guide you:

  • Does the woodwork need repainting or varnishing?
  • Is general painting required?
  • Presence of mould, often found in bathrooms and laundries but can be particularly dangerous if found in bedrooms.
  • Loose electrical fixtures such as power points, light switches, light fittings.
  • Check for worn carpet areas and any stains
  • Check locks with your set of keys
  • Are kitchen cupboards still aligning and closing correctly?
  • Check bench tops
  • Check appliances – cook top, oven and exhaust fan etc
  • Smoke alarms should be in working order, there should be one on each level of the home.
  • Check outside – look at gutters and downpipes
  • Check the gardens and pool
  • Check overhanging branches- Check for any pruning or cut backs that are due and in the case of council approval make a note to lodge an application.
  • Pool fences and gates in compliance, check the perimeter to ensure there are no unsteady railings or backyard items against the fence.
  • Lawns should be cut regularly, and gardens maintained neatly in accordance with the lease

How involved are you in the management of your property? See our blog “Managing Your Investment Property.”

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Copyright © 2016, www.propertyquarters.com.au

Renting In Australia: One Country, Eight Different Rules


Huffington Post Australia (different rules)

‘The Lucky Country’ for renters depends on which state/territory you live in.

We love to call ourselves the Lucky Country but, let’s face it, if you’re a renter, it depends which state or territory you’re living in. That’s because each state and territory has its own tenancy legislation. Eight sets of rules for tenants and landlords to live by.

Read the full Huffington Post Australia interview HERE.

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NSW Residential Tenancy Law Review


Tenancy-Agreement 650 x 488

The Residential Tenancies Act 2010 includes provisions for the current minister to “…conduct a review after five years to determine whether the policy objectives of the Act remain valid and whether its terms remain appropriate for securing those objectives.”

It’s comforting to know that our legislation is progressive enough to allow for corrections. Nothing is perfect, and this review allows for the public at large whether individually or through special interest groups, to voice an opinion of changes that would benefit the community through property legislation.

Public submissions closed on 29 January 2016 and the NSW Fair Trading has been reviewing those submissions. On the 17th of June they released “Residential Tenancies Act 2010 – Statutory Review” outlining their recommendations with an explanation for each.

Amendments to Act will be drafted in 2017.

Recommendations include

• Clarity on shared housing arrangements.
• Disclosure requirements, particularly for properties used in drug crime.
• Strata by-laws – to be issued to tenants when signing a lease.
• Update to the Tenant’s checklist to include safety requirements.
• Rental Bonds
– Remain at 4 weeks.
– Abolish the payment of interest to tenants.
– All landlords/agents register with Rental Bonds online.
• Ability for condition reports to contain photos.
• Agent/landlord to consult with the tenant for the use of internal photos for marketing.
• Water usage – more clarity on what is “separately metered premises”.
• Rent increases – no need to send “60 days’ notice” if increase is already documented in a fixed term lease.
• Repairs
– Allowance for a tenant to terminate a lease based on repairs not being carried out.
– Time-frames for repairs.
– Authority for the Tribunal to order the landlord to carry out repairs.
• Alterations – landlord may not unreasonably refuse consent for minor alterations that would make the premises livable for disabled or elderly tenants.
• Changes to the Act that will encourage long term leases.
• A better method for calculating a tenant’s liability when breaking a lease.
• Domestic Violence – make it easier for victims of domestic violence to terminate a lease.
• Residential tenancy databases – tenants not to be charged to find out if they are listed.
• Allow for notices to be served electronically.

The full report can be downloaded here

To see different tenancy legislations in different states see our link “Renting in Australia- One Country, Eight Different Rules”
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