A raft of changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) (Act) and Residential Tenancies Regulation 2019 (NSW) (Regulation) will commence on 23 March 2020 (commencing date). New South Wales Landlords and agents should make themselves familiar with the changes – the main ones are summarised below.

Is it fit to live in?

The following criteria will be used to assess whether a property is fit for habitation (note the list is not exhaustive, and it remains to be seen how the criteria will be interpreted):

  • Structural soundness;
  • Adequate natural light or artificial lighting for each room (excludes garages and storerooms);
  • Adequate ventilation;
  • Adequate plumbing and drainage;
  • Connected to a supply of water;
  • Connected to electricity or gas and has adequate sockets;
  • Contains bathroom facilities that allow for privacy.

Have you told your tenant?

Landlords and agents have more onerous pre-lease disclosure obligations, such as providing a copy of strata by-laws, disclosing whether a property has previously been subject to flooding, the site of drug offences or suicide, or where the building is affected by combustible cladding or loose-fill asbestos, including any DA for rectification or repair works. Landlords must also disclose any proposal to sell the property. Failure to disclose a material fact may result in the Tenant terminating the lease by giving 14 days’ notice.

New forms

New standard forms for condition reports and residential leases will apply for leases entered into from the commencing date, with penalties imposed if a landlord or managing agent fails to provide the tenant with a completed condition report at the start of the tenancy.

I’m raising your rent

Once a fixed term has expired, rent increases will be limited to once per year.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Tenants may make minor alterations to fixtures, additions or renovations provided that prior Landlord consent has been obtained. For specified works including picture hooks, window coverings, insect screens and some garden plantings, the Landlord must not unreasonably withhold consent. Exemptions will apply for heritage properties or properties listed on the Loose-fill Asbestos Insulation Register.

They’re moving out early!

For leases entered into from the commencing date, fixed fees calculated as follows will be payable by a Tenant who breaks a lease:

  • 4 weeks’ rent if less than 25% of the fixed term has expired;
  • 3 weeks’ rent if 25% or more but less than 50% of the fixed term has expired;
  • 2 weeks’ rent if 50% or more but less than 75% of the fixed term has expired;
  • 1 week’s rent if 75% or more of the fixed term has expired.

A Tenant may also end their tenancy immediately and without penalty if the Tenant or their dependent Child is in circumstances of domestic violence. Any co-Tenants (not being the perpetrator) may apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Tribunal) to end their tenancy, and are not required to cover the departing victim’s share of rent for 2 weeks.

No photos, please!

Landlords must obtain their Tenant’s prior written consent to publish photos or videos of the premises for advertising purposes where the Tenant’s possessions may be shown (Tenants not to unreasonably withhold consent).

Does anyone smell smoke?

Landlords must ensure that smoke alarms are repaired or replaced – this includes battery replacement, with smoke alarms to be inspected annually. Tenants who repair or replace smoke alarms or batteries are entitled to reimbursement.

You break it, you fix it

A Landlord or Tenant may apply to the Tribunal for a rectification order against the other party where a written request for rectification has been made and the request was not complied with.

Water efficiency

Landlords wishing to pass on water usage charges to Tenants will need to comply with water efficiency measures, which include separate meters, no leaking taps or toilets and maximum flow rates for shower heads and taps. From 23 March 2025 dual-flush toilets with a minimum 3-star rating will be required.

Polczynski Robinson will be happy to help with any questions you may have. Contact Julie Briscoe or Dominique Robinson.