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Spring cleaning when renting

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This edition of The Letterbox looks into questions that arise throughout a tenancy, like who is responsible for certain cleaning tasks.


Answers to your questions on cleaning

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Q: A few weeks after moving into a rental I noticed mould in one of the bedrooms. Who is responsible for removing the mould?

A: As a general rule, this will depend on when and why the mould developed, and each case is different. In this instance, the mould developed close to the start of the tenancy, which may mean the property was already in this condition prior to commencement of the tenancy. 

If mould was a pre-existing problem in the property, then the landlord is responsible for rectifying it.

There may also be an argument that the landlord is responsible for mould removal if the mould develops over time during the tenancy due to structural problems with the property. Sometimes, mould can be a persistent problem despite a tenant’s best efforts to regularly clean walls and ceilings and keep the property well ventilated.

Elsewhere, mould may develop if the tenant doesn’t effectively ventilate or clean the premises. In these cases, the tenant would be responsible for removing the mould or paying for it to be professionally removed.

The condition report that is filled out at the start of every tenancy contains a dedicated section on mould. Tenants should note the presence of mould if it is discovered at the time of completing the report.

Where mould or damp develops over time, a tenant must notify the landlord or their agent (preferably in writing) as soon as possible. Take photos with time stamps if possible as this could be important evidence. If there is a dispute regarding the repairs, an application can be made to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).

More information is available on the Getting repairs done page on the Fair Trading website.

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Q: My agent did a routine inspection a short while ago and I didn’t have time to clean up so the property wasn’t very tidy. A few days later I received a letter from my agent, reminding me that it is my responsibility to keep the place tidy. Can my agent do this?

A: It is a requirement of your tenancy agreement that you keep the premises reasonably clean. If the agent found the property wasn’t clean or damage had been done, they may organise a follow up inspection to ensure that these concerns have been rectified. The agent must give you at least seven days’ notice prior to inspection. Use this time to ensure the unit is clean.
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Q: The oven has caked on grime and although we have tried to clean it several times, we can’t get rid of it. I’m worried the agent will say it is dirty when we do move out, even though the grime was there before us. What can we do?

A: If the grime was there before you moved in, you are not responsible for it. The grime should have been noted in the condition report, which you can produce as evidence if your agent accuses you of dirtying the oven. It is also a good idea not to wait until the termination of your tenancy agreement to bring the grime to the agent’s attention — as a general rule, the sooner you raise any problems, the better. If the oven cannot be restored to clean working order, you should consider requesting the landlord to replace the oven entirely.


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Q: I own a house that I’m about to rent out. How often do my tenants have to mow the lawns and weed the garden?

A: As the landlord, you are responsible for ensuring the garden and lawns are tidy and maintained at the start of the tenancy. Once your tenants move in, they are responsible for maintaining the property, including mowing the lawns and maintaining the gardens. There is no specific timeframe for how often the tenants must mow the lawn and weed the gardens. However, when tenants vacate, the garden and lawn must be in a similar condition to when they first moved in. You may wish to consider including an additional term in the tenancy agreement that sets out your expectations and the tenant’s obligations in relation to the lawns and gardens.

Tenancy Tales from the complaint service

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A tenant lodged a complaint about some repairs that were needed that were not being done by their landlord. In the course of handling the complaint, the tenant provided Fair Trading with a copy of their Residential Tenancy Agreement.

The Fair Trading officer handling the matter identified that the agreement included a prohibited term that the tenant must have the carpets professionally cleaned at the end of the tenancy.

The officer contacted the agent to discuss the tenant’s concerns about the outstanding repairs and informed them about the prohibited term.

The agent agreed to have the prohibited term removed and the tenant was encouraged to meet with the agent in order to amend the agreement.

A tenant cannot be asked to professionally clean or pay for the cleaning of carpets at the end of a tenancy, unless there has been a pet in the premises, or the carpet has been damaged beyond what would be considered fair wear and tear.

For example, the tenant is not responsible for furniture marks on the carpet and worn carpet in high traffic areas as these are considered fair wear and tear. However, if the tenant has damaged the carpet, such as by spilling wine on it, then they would be liable for the damage.

For more information on fair wear and tear, including examples, visit the Getting your bond back page on our website.


Fire safety and external wall cladding

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An inter-agency Fire Safety and External Wall Cladding Taskforce was established in June this year to develop and implement a co-ordinated, whole of government policy response to the Grenfell fire in London. On 28 July, 2017 the NSW Government announced comprehensive reforms to further strengthen fire safety protections, with an initial focus on residential buildings.

If owners and occupants (including tenants) of buildings are concerned about fire safety in their building, they should take action without delay. Residents seeking further information are advised to contact their real estate agent, landlord, building owner or strata manager.

It is recommended that real estate agents, landlords, building owners and strata managers immediately:
• identify any buildings that you are responsible for that may have external wall cladding
• review the design, construction and approval documents for the building to determine whether cladding was installed. Seek advice about the suitability of the type of material used and the method of installation
• ensure that the annual fire safety statement for the building is up-to-date and all fire safety maintenance measures have been addressed, and
• consider engaging a suitable professional to review and inspect the overall fire safety of the building including the installation of any external wall cladding and provide an assessment of any steps required to maintain or improve the building fire safety.

More information about external wall cladding, fire safety and the NSW Government’s priorities is available on our Fire safety and external wall cladding webpage, or you can download the fact sheet


Beat bigger bills with Energy Made Easy

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Energy costs are a strain on many household budgets, but you may be able to get a better deal if you shop around.

If you haven't switched energy providers for a while, you may be paying more for gas and electricity than you need to. The Australian Government's free comparison website, Energy Made Easy can help you find a plan that better suits your needs while saving you money.

Energy Made Easy lets you compare plans from all retailers, without requiring you to enter any personal details. It also helps you compare fees, terms and conditions, how any discounts are applied, and whether a retailer offers extra services like flexible billing options or apps.

Visit the Energy Made Easy website for tips on how to find the best plan for you.


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 Port Stephens (24 October), Bowral (31 October) and Liverpool (9 November).

Events for real estate agents are available in Port Stephens (25 October), Bowral (1 November) and Liverpool (8 November).

There is also an information session for real estate agents reforms in Sydney on 16 November.

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

Book now