The Letterbox - your tenancy enewsletter
 
Fair Trading enquiries
13 32 20
 

Safety when renting

When a tenant rents a property, it becomes their home and the landlord must make sure it is in a reasonable state of repair and is reasonably secure.

This edition of the Letterbox focuses on the responsibilities of tenants and landlords to keep a rented home safe and secure.
 

Answers to your questions on safety when renting

Image of a key

Q: Who is responsible for installing and maintaining smoke alarms?

A: Landlords are responsible for installing and maintaining smoke alarms in a rented property.

At the start of a tenancy, it is recommended that landlords put a new battery in the smoke alarm.

During the tenancy, the tenant is responsible for replacing the batteries in any smoke alarm as needed. Hard-wired smoke alarm back-up batteries are to be replaced by the landlord.

If a tenant is physically unable to change the battery, they should contact the landlord as soon as possible. Fire & Rescue NSW can also assist the elderly or those physically unable to change a smoke detector battery. Contact your local fire station for information.

If the alarm is damaged or not working, the tenant should notify the landlord or agent. A landlord or the agent will need to give 2 days' notice so they can enter the premises to:

  • install smoke alarms
  • maintain or repair smoke alarms
You can find out more information about smoke alarms on the Fire & Rescue NSW website.
 
Image of a key

Q: My tenant has told me they want to be able to open the unit's windows all the way, but the safety locks stop them from being opened. The tenant does not have children, so can the locks be removed?

A: No. The installation of window safety devices is a very important child safety measure for residential premises. For this reason, the laws do not allow for any exemptions.

While the locks should not be removed, the laws do not require that the devices be used at all times by the occupant. Occupants are free to unlock the devices and open their windows fully if they wish to do so.

While it is up to the occupant to decide when to engage safety devices, NSW Fair Trading strongly recommends that people engage window safety devices when children are present.

More information on window safety device requirements is available on our website.
Image of a padlock

Q: How often should the gas water heater be serviced, and who is responsible for this?

A: Indoor or outdoor water heaters should be serviced once a year by an authorised gas service agent. Landlords are responsible for ensuring that gas water heaters are serviced regularly.

Gas water heaters that have not been properly maintained have been responsible for deaths and serious injuries. If your property has a gas bath heater or flued instantaneous water heater in the bathroom, or a flueless water heater in the kitchen, it could be a source of danger and you should ensure that there is adequate ventilation when using them.

You can find out more information about gas water heaters on our website, including information specific to renting.
 
Image of a key

Q: My key broke off in the door lock on the weekend. A locksmith came and fixed the lock and provided me with a new set of keys. The landlord says that I need to pay the locksmith. Is it my responsibility to pay, and do I need to give the landlord a key?

A: Your landlord is responsible for maintaining the locks and other security devices that are necessary to ensure that the property is reasonably secure. If the key broke because of fair wear and tear, then your landlord is responsible for the costs.

If the key broke because of damage other than fair wear and tear, then you are responsible to pay for the replacement lock.

If you and your landlord cannot agree on who is responsible, then either of you may apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal) for a resolution.

If either a tenant or landlord changes a lock, they must provide the other party (tenant, landlord or their agent) a copy of the new keys within 7 days after changing the lock unless:

  • they agree not to be given a copy
  • the Tribunal authorises a copy not to be given, or
  • they are excluded from the premises by an apprehended violence order.
 
Image of a key

Q: The swimming pool gate in my property can be opened easily by a child as it is very flimsy. Who should I contact to have this fixed?

A: You should first contact the landlord or agent. If they cannot be contacted or do not carry out the repairs within a reasonable time, then you may get the repairs done yourself and seek reimbursement from the landlord as an urgent repair. Proper and well-maintained pool fencing and gates are a key safety measure.

Remember, if the property becomes unsafe or not secure then it is treated as an urgent repair. Tenants can carry out urgent repairs (that are not the fault of the tenant) and be reimbursed up to $1,000 towards the cost under certain circumstances, including if the landlord or agent cannot be contacted or does not carry out the repairs within a reasonable time.

It is also a condition of every residential tenancy agreement that NSW swimming pool laws have been complied with. These laws require that the gate self-closes, self-latches and that the latching device is at least 150cm off the ground.

More information on pool safety can be found on our website.
 

Tenancy Tales from the complaint service

Image of a padlock

The main door to a rented property had water damage, making it difficult to fully close. While the front flyscreen door could be locked, the main door was not secure because of the damage. The tenant contacted Fair Trading, frustrated with the agent, after their request for an urgent repair had not been carried out.

Fair Trading contacted the agent who advised that while the door was damaged beyond repair, the landlord would not agree to replace it. Fair Trading reminded the agent of their responsibility, which includes informing the landlord of their obligations on urgent repairs and keeping the property safe and secure. In this case, the damage to the door meant the property was not secure and should be treated as an urgent repair. Additionally, if urgent repairs are not done within a reasonable time, the tenant can arrange for work to be done and be reimbursed by the landlord (up to $1,000).

The agent conveyed the information from Fair Trading to the landlord and reminded the landlord of their responsibilities on urgent repairs and keeping the property safe and secure. As a result, the landlord agreed for a tradesperson to replace the door 24 hours later, resulting in the property being safe and secure.

You can read more about getting repairs done on our website.
 

Window safety devices in strata buildings

To prevent children falling from windows, strata schemes must have window safety devices installed on all applicable windows where the internal floor is more than 2m above the external surface outside and within a child’s reach (less than 1.7m above the internal floor).

If a strata scheme does not have devices installed, the owners corporation is leaving young children vulnerable to falls from windows. Owners corporations can be fined up to $550 for non-compliance if convicted by a court. Owners who obstruct an owners corporation can also be fined.

To report a strata scheme that is not complying with the window safety device requirements, send an email to windowsafety@finance.nsw.gov.au along with the following information:

  • your name and contact details
  • the address of the strata scheme
  • the managing strata agent's name and contact details (or Secretary's details, if there is no managing agent).
For more information, visit the Window safety device requirements page on our website, or call 13 32 20.
 

New ticket reselling laws

From 1 June 2018, new laws on ticket reselling apply in New South Wales. It is now against the law to resell tickets for more than the original ticket cost, plus transaction costs that are capped at 10%. The new laws apply to tickets to NSW events that are first sold or supplied by the authorised seller on or after 1 June 2018 and have a resale restriction. A resale restriction is a term or condition of a ticket that limits the circumstances in which the ticket may be resold, or prohibits resale of the ticket.

The new laws protect consumers by preventing an event organiser from cancelling a ticket on the basis it was resold, if it was sold in accordance with the new laws. The event organiser may cancel a ticket and refuse entry if a ticket is resold for more than the original value plus transaction costs (capped at 10%).

Visit our website to find out more about buying tickets and ticket reselling.
 

Need help?

Image of a key

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.

The Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services provide assistance and advocacy to all tenants, particularly social housing tenants or the vulnerable. To find your nearest Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service, go to www.tenants.org.au or call 8117 3700.
 

Feedback

image of a key

We want to make sure The Letterbox is relevant and interesting.

Please send us an email with your comments, suggestions or topics you would like covered.
 

Subscribe

Image of a padlock

Subscribe to the Property Matters email alert service for property professionals.

Subscribe to the Strata updates email alert service.

Subscribe to other free eNewsletters. We also have industry-focused eNewsletters for the home building industry, automotive industry, plumbers and drainers and other sectors we regulate.
 

Upcoming events

Image of a padlock

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 Abbotsbury (25 July) and Mudgee (29 August).

An event for real estate agents is available in Abbotsbury (25 July).

Strata scheme information sessions for owners and tenants are available in Abbotsbury (25 July); and for professionals in Abbotsbury (25 July).

Book now
 
fairtrading.nsw.gov.au