The rights and obligations of landlord and tenant

The landlord/tenant dynamic is rarely smooth, even at its best.  But the COVID-related rental freezes in 2020 further divided relations and opinion.

Getting back to basics

Simple reminders often stem potentially complicated situations. 

Entering into the contractual commitment of a residential or commercial lease is a legally binding agreement under which both parties comply with individual responsibilities.

The laws and conditions vary according to the state. 

Victoria, for example, is implementing changes to rental laws from March 29 for the increased safety and fairness of tenant and landlord. But the basic rules apply.

As with any harmonious and mutually compatible arrangement, communication is key – and landlords and tenants have their distinct roles to play and duties to fulfil.

We touch on a few areas where landlord and tenant rights, rules and regulations hold sway:

The landlord’s duties  

  1. In the first instance, a landlord must provide a dwelling that is safe and habitable. Once a contract has been signed, the landlord is in breach of his leasing agreement if the residence is deemed unsuitable for residential use when the tenant is due to move in.
  2. A landlord is required to not only maintain the premises in a physically habitable and housing code-compliant manner, but he or she is obliged not to interfere with the tenant’s permissible use of the premises, without notice.   
  3. Recoverable costs associated with damages and repairs can be perceived as a grey area. The landlord is obliged to pay for internal or unforeseen repairs. However, in the case of a broken electrical system, for example: if the landlord refuses payment for repair and the tenant is forced to remedy the situation at their initial expense, the cost is the ultimate responsibility of the landlord.  

Duties and rights of tenancy

  1. By law, the tenant is obliged to pay the rent on time, not use the premises for illegal purposes, and refrain from wasteful practices and wilful damage.  
  2. The tenant has the right to refuse the landlord entry, unless the tenant has received 24 hours’ written notice. Permissible entry is generally accepted between 8 am and 6 pm on any day, public holidays excluded. If these terms are breached, the landlord’s unauthorized entry is tantamount to committing an offence. 
  3. The tenant may break their lease, depending on the rules of their bond and other contractual agreements. If a tenant leaves the premises before the terms of their lease, they forfeit or partially forfeit their bond entitlements. If the property is damaged during a tenant’s occupancy, the tenant is financially responsible for any and all repairs.   

If in doubt about your rights and duties as a tenant or landlord, you are advised to consult your property manager promptly.