Minimum standards for rental property
Most property leased in NSW is well maintained and appropriate to live in. Not so much because of the law but because the large majority of owners and tenants respect the relationship and want to be fair. In fact it is rare that questions of minimum standards ever get raised or need to be argued about.
But there are times when tempers are frayed and the need to have a disagreement settled by the tribunal does arise. Every property is different and the rules needs to be adaptable to those variations. So, law makers put in to place guidelines as to what minimum standards a property needs to meet and how it has to be maintained. These rules allow the tribunal to look at the circumstances and decide what is fair and what they consider necessary.
Rental properties have minimum standards.
There has always been a law that rental property must be fit to live in. But it is only recently that they have given any definition to what that really means.
Now a rental property must meet specific standards which are:
• Floors, stairs, balconies, and railings must be sound
• Walls, roofs, ceilings, doors, and windows sound and do not allow water penetration
• Rooms with the except storerooms and garages must have adequate lighting and ventilation
• Electricity and gas (if its connected) have sufficient outlets for lighting, heating, and the use of appliances
• Adequate plumbing and drainage
• Hot and cold water for drinking, washing, and cleaning
• Have bathroom, toilet and washing facilities that allow privacy.
What does adequate and sound mean
The lawmakers knew they couldn’t write specifications that would sensibly apply to every property in every situation, so they used words such as adequate, sufficient, and sound.
They then gave the Tribunal the power to decide what is reasonable on a case-by-case basis.
As a general guide, think of
• sound as meaning to be able to do the job it was designed and intended to do and
• sufficient and adequate means able to do it well enough to meet the needs of an average person
Things don’t need to be perfect, but they need to work and do what’s expected. For example, a front door needs to be stronger than the door to a bathroom. A window must open and close, but it doesn’t have to be airtight.
What is a reasonable state of repair?
Floors, walls etc, must be maintained in a reasonable state of repair. And again, the question is, what is a reasonable state of repair?
The tribunal considers something to be in a reasonable state of repair if it can do what it was initially designed to do. It doesn’t have to do it perfectly and it doesn’t have to be like new, but it must work.
The Tribunal looks at two things when considering what is a reasonable state of repair.
· the age of the property,
Whether old or new, the property and its features must be maintained, there isn’t any distinction there. But the older the property the more wear and tear is to be expected. A new stove should be in better condition than an old stove, but both must work.
· and the amount of rent being paid
A higher standard is expected for a $2,000 a week property than a $200 a week rental.
Tribunal will also look at the property’s condition at the commencement of the lease,
A dishwasher working when a tenant leases the property must be kept working, even if that means replacement. Its not that a dishwasher is a minimum standard, its that how a property is when the lease is signed, is how the property must stay.
Generally, there is no requirement for an owner to improve a property above how it was leased unless the property is failing to meet minimum standards. If it is, the property must be improved, and the law and tribunal say that is absolutely reasonable.