Property investment has grown steadily in Australia, with around 10% of the adult population owning at least one investment property.
Being a landlord is an excellent way to build wealth, but being a responsible landlord is a significant undertaking. While some people embrace the role and take it immediately in their stride, others would benefit from being pointed in the right direction in terms of their legal responsibilities.
So, what are landlord laws?
Essentially, they cover legal obligations and responsibilities of a landlord. Common law in Australia states that landlords have a duty to guarantee ‘the safety or a rented property and its contents’.
Additionally, there are specific regulations to rental properties and clauses that are unique to individual tenancy agreements. These laws differ from state to state, so an awareness of the distinctions each state and territory needs to be maintained.
Melanie Williams is the Property Management Department Manager for Elders Glenelg, South Australia.
An experienced property manager and department manager herself, she has plenty of sound advice for those who are looking to place tenants in their properties.
In the first instance, where should prospective landlords go to for advice?
“Certainly, the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs website offers fact sheets and updates, as does the Real Estate Institute of Australia. Though considering a property manager may be the best option. Using a manager is beneficial because of their experience in dealing with a variety of situations”, asserts Williams.
“A licensed property manager looking after your property will be up to date with all of the laws.”
Landlord-specific laws in Australia do change, so it is fundamental to keep abreast of these changes.
“There was a major change around three years ago, the laws are always being updated. Parliamentary laws have a lot to do with it. People do often try to action law changes, but they have to go through parliament before they are enforced.”
If you are leaning toward managing your property yourself, it’s critical that you check for updates. Having key resources in place to check these and knowing who to ask questions will help you meet your responsibilities as a landlord.
Remember, too, that tenants can seek their own advice and check on legislation just as readily, for example, through Tenant’s Advice Line and Tenancy Check. Therefore it is fundamental to be wholly aware of your legal requirements, prior to putting an agreement in place for prospective tenants.
Melanie Williams also cautions that there can be significant differences from state to state, so although you might have experience in one part of the country, it won’t always translate.
“For example, in South Australia, we cannot enforce carpet cleaning [at the end of a tenancy], but some other states can. Laws are very much state-based. We have had interstate landlords with properties (in South Australia) query as to whether we can enforce such actions, but in the instance of carpets, we can’t.”
This is perhaps, another key benefit of seeking out a property manager to advocate for you, as a landlord:
“It’s good to find an agent that suits your needs and know that you can trust them to manage your valuable investment.”
Williams refers to how strict laws are and how they can impact the validity of a tenancy agreement:
“If you put a clause in your tenancy agreement and it’s contradictory to the current act, it could make your whole tenancy agreement invalid…. Unless you are experienced and know what you can’t do, managing your property can lead you to feel bewildered.”
Checking resources within the state of your investment property, ensuring you maintain communication with all involved parties and considering a manager are all key points when considering the importance of laws that govern landlord obligations.