Welcome to the latest edition of The Letterbox, NSW Fair Trading’s enewsletter about tenancy issues. 

First up, we take a look at tenancy database listings and enquiries tenants can make to resolve incorrect listings.

We introduce our enhanced condition report. It’s fillable, has more space for comments and (best of all) is completely free.

There’s a guide on deck and balcony safety to help home owners avoid some of the tragic accidents that have occurred in recent months.

We’ve included a reminder about swimming pool compliance for landlords – if your rental property has a swimming pool, you can’t start too soon. The deadline is 29 April 2015.   

Finally, have a peek at our new vox pop video, featuring NSW tradespeople telling what their licence represents for them. We hope it will help to remind consumers to quickly and easily check a tradie's licence online before engaging them to perform work on one of our most valued assets - our homes!

The ins and outs of tenancy database listings

Tenancy databases are often used by agents to help screen prospective tenants.

Tenancy laws set out who, when and why a person can be listed. They also allow disputes about proposed and existing listings to be managed.

In certain circumstances, listings may need to be amended or updated. The following articles explore actions that can be taken to resolve out-of-date listings.   

You can learn more about this topic at our Tenancy databases page.

Answers to your questions - tenancy database listings

A: I was listed on a tenancy database in June 2011 for damage my old flatmate did to a former rental property, which was in my name. I applied for a rental property in July this year and was told by the agents that my application was unsuccessful because my name wa
s coming up on a tenancy database. It seems like a long time - should I still be listed?

Q: No, the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 allows for a tenant’s personal information to be kept on any tenancy database for a maximum period of 3 years and then it must be removed. You should contact the real estate agency responsible for listing your personal details on the tenancy database, and ask them to remove the listing. You can also contact Fair Trading and ask them to assist you to have the listing removed through their Tenancy Complaint Service.

Tenancy tales - case study from the Tenancy Complaint Service

Fair Trading received a complaint from a customer advising he was homeless and unable to obtain a private rental. His name was listed on a tenancy database for unpaid rent on a property he lived in back in 2011. While aware that he was in the wrong at the time, the customer was now desperate to resolve the issue to establish a home for himself and his children.

Fair Trading requested that the customer provide evidence of the tenancy database listing, including the date the listing was made. The customer provided a personal listing report, which he obtained from the tenancy database operator.

The report stated that he was listed on the tenancy database in March 2011 and would remain so for another 4 years. Having received this information, Fair Trading was able to identify that this was in breach of current laws, requiring customers’ personal information to be removed after 3 years, which in this instance ended in March 2014.

Fair Trading contacted the listing real estate agency to discuss the complaint and provide information on the requirements for listing a tenant on a tenancy database under the Residential Tenancies Act 2010. This included the 3-year limit during which personal details can remain on a tenancy database.

The customer’s listing on the tenancy database has since been removed.  

New and improved condition report

We’ve had a free version of the condition report available for some time, but as it’s such an important document, we felt it could benefit from some improvements.

We’ve now made it easier to use, more flexible and fairer for agents, landlords and tenants.

Our changes include:

  • Flexible, fillable design - so it can be filled in either electronically or in print
  • A new landscape layout and larger cells to increase the available space for comments
  • A separate column for tenants to use at the start of the tenancy
  • Simple clickable/tickable Yes and No buttons for either print or electronic use

Go to the Residential tenancy section of the Forms page on the Fair Trading website to download your copy. You can also download the standard tenancy agreement as a fillable PDF.

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Does your pool comply with NSW laws?

Currently, around 95% of NSW pools are non-compliant.

If you have property with a swimming or spa pool, or you’re an agent who has properties with pools on the rental roll, you’re probably well aware by now of the need to obtain a certificate of compliance to sell or lease the property after 29 April 2015.

You could be forgiven for thinking that April seems a lonnnng way off…

But it’s worth keeping in mind that, with the number of inspections and work required, it can take around 3 months, and even up to 6 months, to obtain a certificate of compliance.

Now consider that pool inspectors are reporting non-compliance rates of around 95%.

Suddenly April seems to be just around the corner.

Avoid the rush – if you have or manage a property with a pool, make sure you are starting the process now to arrange your compliance certificate.

Otherwise you might find yourself paying a premium for fencing, gates or any other work you might need done if a tenant moves out unexpectedly after 29 April 2015.

More information about these sale and lease requirements is available from our Swimming pools page. 

Now is also a good time to brush up on pool safety information - follow our Safer pool choices campaign running in November at our website or through our social media channels.   

Make rental homes safer by checking your deck

Outdoor living is a popular part of Australian life and spending time on the deck can be great way to enjoy some fresh air.

Unfortunately, unsafe balconies and decks have been involved in a number of recent accidents and deaths.

Under NSW tenancy laws, landlords must provide and maintain rented premises in a reasonable state of repair. Any maintenance concerns or damage should be noted in the condition report, which both parties are required to complete and sign at the beginning of a tenancy.

Like all parts of the home, decks and balconies can deteriorate over time. Things like exposure to weather, insects, and heavy loads such as BBQs, pot plants and even people, can cause decks to weaken.

To help home owners check their deck or balcony is safe for use and to prevent serious accidents from occurring, Fair Trading has produced a practical maintenance and safety guide for timber, concrete and masonry decks and balconies.

To download the Guide and for more information go to the Deck and balcony safety page.

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New video shows value of checking a tradie's licence 

Our new vox pop shows the value of checking a tradie's licence before hiring them for a build, renovation or repair. See why tradies are 'licensed and loving' it by visiting our YouTube channel. Next, find out more - and check a tradie's licence - through our Home building licence check page.

Check your tradie - check your rights banner

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We want to make sure The Letterbox is relevant and interesting. Please send us your comments, suggestions or topics you would like covered: theletterbox@finance.nsw.gov.au

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Research project looks at renters 'at home'

A new Griffith University PhD research project is exploring renting experiences through anonymous ‘rental tales’ - people’s present and past examples and experiences of renting that may be significant for them. The project aims to collect thousands of different experiences online to build a picture of factors that help or hinder renters feeling ‘at home’. You can submit a rental tale at the research website: Renters at home . Please note that NSW Fair Trading is not affiliated with this project.

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