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Repairs and maintenance in strata and you can now serve notice by email

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In this edition of The Letterbox, we look at window safety requirements and getting repairs and maintenance done in a strata scheme.

Tenants, landlords and agents can now serve notice by email. This means that written notice such as for putting up the rent, notifying access for an inspection or to terminate the tenancy agreement - can be served by email. All other requirements for serving notice remain the same, including the amount of notice required. You can read more about serving notice on our website.
 

Answers to your questions on strata

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Q: I own a unit on the 3rd floor of a unit block that I rent out. I am being told that I have to install window locks on my windows. Why should I have to pay for this and does this mean the windows will never be able to be opened fully?

A: To prevent children falling from windows, the owners corporation must have window safety devices installed on all applicable windows by 13 March 2018. This applies to openable windows more than 2m above the outside ground floor and within a child's reach (less than 1.7m above the inside floor) – see the diagram below.

Window safety diagram

The devices must enable the maximum opening to be limited to 12.5cm. However a device that allows the window to be fully opened, fully closed and also limited to 12.5cm complies with the legislation. As long as the opening can be limited to 12.5cm, complying safety devices include devices attached to a window frame or robust bars, but not lightweight fly screens. When children are in the unit or townhouse, it makes sense to use the devices at all times to prevent falls.

Lot owners may install a window safety device in their property at any time, letting the owners corporation know. Tenants must get written permission from their landlord before installing locks that require drilling. Landlords cannot refuse a tenant's request unless they have a very good reason.

You can find out more about window safety device requirements on our website.
 
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Q: I have some furniture inside my storage cage in the basement garage of my building and because of heavy rain, the garage flooded and my furniture was damaged. Can I ask my landlord to pay for the damage?

A: No, your landlord does not need to pay for the damage caused to your possessions. You are responsible for belongings stored in your storage cage, so you will need to pay to replace or repair your items or make a claim against your insurance company if you have a policy.
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Q: I'm renting a townhouse that has issues with mould. I contacted my agent but nothing has been done to fix the problem. The agent said they have spoken to the landlord but they are refusing to do repairs. What can I do?

A: If you are unable to resolve the problem with the landlord or the agent, you can contact Fair Trading for assistance or lodge a complaint online to use Fair Trading's free tenancy and real estate complaint service.

Alternatively, you can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a variety of orders, including an order that your landlord carry out the repairs or an order for rent reduction or compensation.

Also, make sure to keep good records of your contact with the landlord or agent, including taking photographs in case you need them for evidence at the Tribunal.
 

 

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Q: The upstairs neighbour regularly hoses their balcony down and because they have a dog, its droppings and urine splashes onto my balcony. I am a tenant and have tried talking to the neighbour but they refuse to talk to me. What can I do?

A: The first step is to raise the issue with your landlord or agent. They can then raise the issue with the strata manager who represents the owners corporation.

The owners corporation can try and resolve the issue between you and your neighbour. If no resolution can be made, you can apply for mediation through Fair Trading to try and resolve the dispute. More information on strata and community mediation is available on our website.
 

Tenancy Tales from the complaint service

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After moving into a new apartment, a tenant realised there was no internet connection available. As their tenancy agreement indicated that an internet line was available, the landlord was obliged to ensure the facility was available and in working order.

The tenant raised the issue with the agent who told them that repairs to common property would be needed for the apartment to receive internet services.

The agent contacted the strata manager (on behalf of the landlord) on multiple occasions requesting a repair. While the agent was clearly taking steps to resolve the issue, there was no response from the strata manager.

The tenant lodged a complaint with Fair Trading seeking reimbursement from the landlord for their increased mobile phone data charges for the period that the connection was not available.

Fair Trading acknowledged the landlord did not have the ability to resolve the matter themselves as the repair affected common property and needed to be resolved by the owners corporation.

As the internet facility was meant to be available to the tenant, the tenant requested that the landlord consider a rent reduction until the issue was resolved. Alternatively, the landlord could consider paying for the tenant’s data usage until the owners corporation resolved the issue. The landlord could then pursue the owners corporation for expenses they incurred if it was found that the owners corporation did not address a reasonably foreseeable loss to the owner by not actioning the repair work quickly enough.

The landlord agreed to reimburse the tenant for their increased mobile phone data charges on a goodwill basis.

If a tenant is unable to reach an agreement with their landlord on a rent reduction or compensation for not being provided with a service or facility that was agreed to in the tenancy agreement, they can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a determination.

More information on resolving renting problems or resolving disputes in a strata scheme is available on our website.
 

Keep your home fire safe

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With winter upon us and as you switch on your heaters to keep warm, it becomes even more important to make sure you understand what the fire risks are in your home and what to do to minimise them. Being prepared is the key to reducing the risk of fire occurring and surviving a house fire.

It is recommended that you have a safety checklist to help keep your home fire safe. For information about home fire safety and other fire safety tips, visit the Fire & Rescue NSW website, where you can also find information on fire escape plans and printable fire safety fact sheets.

You can also find a comprehensive guide on selecting, installing and operating domestic solid fuel heaters on the NSW Environment Protection Authority's website.

Visit our Safety and security for tenants webpage for more information.
 

Short-term holiday letting Options Paper

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The NSW Government has released an Options Paper on short-term holiday letting in NSW.

The growth of online booking services and the increased use of the sharing economy has seen short-term holiday letting expand significantly in NSW. There is now a need to reconsider the role of regulation in enabling short-term holiday letting to continue to take place, with consideration of the impact on local communities and the safety of visitors.

Community and industry feedback is sought to help identify appropriate ways for the Government to respond to the expansion of short-term holiday letting. The deadline for comments is 31 October 2017.

You can read more about the Options Paper on the Department of Planning & Environment website.
 

Need help?

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If you can't find an answer to your question, you're welcome to call us on 13 32 20.

If you have a problem with a tenant, landlord or agent that you can't resolve, remember you can lodge a complaint online to use our free tenancy and real estate complaint service.

 

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Upcoming events

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NSW Fair Trading offers free community education seminars across NSW.

Stay informed with Fair Trading's events and seminars on tenancy topics for real estate agents, self-managing landlords and tenants.

Events for self-managing landlords are available in Orange (15 August), Lismore (22 August), Deniliquin (6 September), Port Stephens (24 October), Bowral (31 October) and Liverpool (9 November).

Events for real estate agents are available in Orange (16 August), Lismore (23 August), Deniliquin (6 September), Port Stephens (25 October), Bowral (1 November) and Liverpool (8 November).

Strata scheme information sessions for owners, tenants and professionals are available in Orange (16 August), Lismore (23 August), Port Stephens (25 October), Bowral (1 November), Liverpool - for agents (8 November) and Liverpool - owners and tenants (8 November).

Book now
 
fairtrading.nsw.gov.au