With 9,278 people renting houses or units in the Northern Tablelands and more than 30 per cent of the NSW population now renting, the NSW Coalition Government has hailed its reforms to the residential tenancy laws as common sense changes and a win-win for all.
The changes are being hailed by Coalition politicians as providing a set of basic standards so a tenant's home is up to scratch when they move in.
All rental properties in NSW must now meet a set of standards that include: Adequate natural or artificial lighting and ventilation; Adequate outlets for heating and appliances; A structurally sound building and Access to electricity or gas.
Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said renting families now had greater clarity around what minor alterations they could carry out, such as installing picture hooks to hang family photos.
However, director of Uphill and Schaefer Real Estate Gail Schaefer cautioned against driving anything into the walls of your rented home, even just to hang a few family photographs.
Gail said tenants need to be aware that they still need their landlord's permission to do so.
"And it's best to do it in writing - best to do it in writing for anything to do with any changes to properties or requests for maintenance and repairs," Gail said.
"I think it does come down to common sense and communication between the landlord and the property manager.
"I think it all comes back to tenant selection and just matching tenants to properties and for the property managers to just keep the landlords informed of any changes or things that need to be rectified."
Gail thought most landlords remained very accommodating.
The Fair Trading NSW website also cautions that while the new law states a landlord cannot unreasonably refuse a change of minor nature, it does not define what a change of a ‘minor nature’ is. It will depend on the property and the circumstances, and, as Gail said, for you and your landlord to agree on.
Some changes that may be considered reasonable included installing window safety devices for small children, installing additional security features, having a phone line connected, putting a reasonable number of picture hooks in the wall, planting some vegetables or flowers in the garden, connecting to pay television, replacing the toilet seat and installing a grab rail in the shower for elderly or disabled occupants.
Mr Marshall said the reforms also strengthened protections for victims of domestic violence, allowing tenants to escape a violent partner by immediately breaking a lease without penalty. Victims are protected from being listed on a tenancy database by agents or landlords where a debt or property damage arose because of a violent partner,” he said.
“These reforms have struck the right balance for our local residents, by increasing tenant’s rights, while also protecting a landlord’s investment.”
A Raine and Horne online portal said victims of domestic violence living in a rented property have the right to change the locks and seek to take over the tenancy if their name is not already on the lease. This new provision means immediate protection for domestic violence victims.
A person who has taken out an apprehended violence order will not need to get the landlord’s permission to change the locks, so long as the AVO prohibits the violent person from accessing the rented premises. The landlord or agent should be given a copy of the new set of keys within seven-days.
Mr Marshall said Fair Trading NSW received more than 2,800 complaints about residential tenancy issues in 2017-18, demonstrating just how important the changes were.