Look up property by address
Key changes to smoke alarm requirements for rented homes
Information on who can repair or replace a smoke alarm or change a battery in a tenancy.
From 23 March 2020, NSW landlords and agents need to ensure that smoke alarms installed in rented properties are in working order.
Requirements for landlords and agents
Where a smoke alarm is not in working order, landlords and agents must ensure the alarm is repaired (this includes replacing a battery) within 2 business days. Landlords and agents must check smoke alarms every year to ensure they are working.
Landlords and agents must ensure:
① smoke alarms are replaced within 10 years of manufacture, or earlier if specified by the manufacturer
② batteries are installed or replaced every year (or for lithium batteries, in the period specified by the manufacturer).
Landlords and agents must give at least 2 business days’ notice to inspect or assess the need for smoke alarm repair or replacement, and at least 1 hour notice to carry out repair or replacement of a smoke alarm.
Requirements for tenants
Tenants must notify their landlord or agent if they discover that a smoke alarm is not working (this includes when the battery needs to be changed).
Tenants must notify their landlord when they change a battery in a smoke alarm or engage a licensed electrician to repair or replace an alarm. The different circumstances where a tenant can change a battery or engage a licensed electrician are provided in the table below. This does not apply to social housing tenants.
Responsibilities for certain types of alarms
Below is more information to help landlords and agents understand their responsibilities for different types of smoke alarms, and the situations where a tenant can change a battery in a smoke alarm or arrange for a repair.
Reimbursement for repairs
A tenant is entitled to reimbursement within 7 days after giving written notice of relevant expenses. The notice must detail the nature and cost of repairs together with copies of receipts or invoices. This does not apply to social housing tenants.
If an urgent repair is required, the tenant should contact the landlord or agent as soon as possible. If an urgent repair is needed, the tenant needs to notify the landlord or agent right away and arrangements should be made as soon as possible.
Urgent repairs include:
- a burst water service or a serious water service leak
- a blocked or broken toilet
- a serious roof leak
- a gas leak
- an electrical fault
- flooding or serious flood damage
- serious storm or fire damage
- a failure or breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply to the property
- a failure or breakdown of the hot water service
- a failure or breakdown of the stove or oven
- a failure or breakdown of a heater or air-conditioner
- a fault or damage which makes the property unsafe or insecure
Smoke alarms must also be repaired urgently to ensure they are working – further information on this is provided below under Smoke alarms.
Every person has a right to feel safe and live free from domestic violence.
If there is violence in a rented home, affected tenants should contact the police or a domestic violence advice or support service.
There are options available to improve a tenant’s safety if they need to leave to escape violence, or if they wish to stay.
Ending a tenancy
If a tenant or their dependent child are in circumstances of domestic violence, they can end their tenancy immediately without being penalised.
They tenant will need to give a domestic violence termination notice to the landlord and each co-tenant.
See ending a tenancy for more information.
Staying in the property
Below are some steps a tenant can take to improve their safety if they decide to stay in the rented property.
Removing a perpetrator of domestic violence
If a final Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) is granted that excludes a co-tenant (perpetrator) from accessing the property, then the perpetrator’s co-tenancy will automatically end.
The tenancy simply transfers to any remaining co-tenant(s) named on the agreement.
A remaining occupant who is not named on the agreement can ask the landlord or agent to have the agreement put in their name.
If the landlord or agent refuses, the remaining occupant may apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal) for an order to be recognised as a tenant under the original agreement.
If a final AVO has not been obtained or if it does not include an exclusion order and where the perpetrator is a co-tenant, another co-tenant may apply to the Tribunal to end the perpetrator’s tenancy.
The Tribunal will consider the circumstances of the case when deciding whether to make an order.
Tenants in a social housing property should contact their social housing provider for more information.
Changing locks or other security devices
Changing the locks or other security devices immediately can increase the safety of a tenant from domestic violence.
See Health, safety and security in a rental property for more information about locks and security devices.
Co-tenants affected by domestic violence
Tenants can terminate their tenancy immediately in circumstances of domestic violence, which may have a direct impact on co-tenants.
Non-perpetrator co-tenant/s have a 2-week grace period where they only have to pay a portion of the rent. This gives co-tenants time to find a new co-tenant or apply to the Tribunal to have their tenancy terminated.
They cannot be held responsible for any damage to the property by the domestic violence perpetrator.
Perpetrator co-tenants that remain in the rental property are required to pay the full amount of rent as specified in the tenancy agreement from the date the domestic violence termination notice is provided.
A tenant who is experiencing domestic violence, is not responsible for any damage caused by a domestic violence perpetrator (whether or not the perpetrator is a tenant) during a domestic violence offence.
A co-tenant who is not the domestic violence perpetrator does not have to pay for this type of damage.
The minimum standards set clearer expectations for landlords and tenants and will apply to all rented properties. To be fit to live in, the property must (as a minimum):
——be structurally sound
——have adequate natural or artificial lighting in each room, except storage rooms or garages
——have adequate ventilation
——be supplied with electricity or gas, and have enough electricity or gas sockets for lighting, heating and other appliances
——have adequate plumbing and drainage
——have a water connection that can supply hot and cold water for drinking, washing and cleaning
——have bathroom facilities, including toilet and washing facilities that allow users’ privacy.
Landlords need to ensure their rented properties meet the minimum standards to be fit for habitation. Rented properties are already required to be fit for habitation and should already meet these basic standards.
The property could have other issues that may make it unfit for a tenant to live in, even if it meets the above seven minimum standards. Before the property is rented out, the landlord or agent should take steps (such as make repairs) to make sure the property is fit to live in.
These standards must be maintained throughout the tenancy (by making repairs).
Tenants can install fixtures or make alterations, additions or renovations if they have the landlord’s written consent, or if the tenancy agreement permits it. If the tenant’s request for a fixture or alteration, addition or renovation is of a ‘minor nature’ then the landlord must not unreasonably withhold consent. The tenant must pay for the fixture they install or for any alteration, renovation or addition to the property that they make, unless the landlord agrees otherwise.
The new Regulation lists the kinds of fixtures or alterations, additions or renovations that are minor where it would be unreasonable for the landlord to say no:
——securing furniture to a non-tiled wall for safety reasons
——fitting a childproof latch to an outdoor gate of a single dwelling
——inserting fly screens on windows
——installing or replacing an internal window covering e.g. curtains and removable blinds
——installing cleats or cord guides to secure blind or curtain cords
——installing child safety gates inside the property
——installing window safety devices for child safety
——installing hand-held shower heads or lever-style taps to assist elderly or disabled cupants
——installing or replacing hooks, nails or screws for hanging paintings, picture frames and other similar items
——installing phone line or internet connection
——planting vegetables, flowers, herbs or shrubs (shrubs that don’t grow more than two metres) in the garden if existing vegetation or plants do not need to be removed
——installing a wireless removable outdoor security camera
——applying shatter-resistant film to window or glass doors
——making modifications that don’t penetrate a surface, or permanently modify a surface, fixture or structure of the property.
The new Regulation also specifies that a landlord may require that the following changes be carried out by a qualified person:
——installing hand-held shower heads or lever-style taps to assist elderly or disabled ccupants
——installing a phone line or internet connection
The changes do not apply if a property is listed on the loose-fill asbestos insulation register, or if the property is a heritage item. Some restrictions and exclusions also apply to property in a strata scheme, residential land lease community, or to social housing properties.
Even if the fixture, alteration, addition or renovation is included in the above list, tenants must still get the landlord’s written permission. However, for changes that are on the list and not covered by an exemption, it is unreasonable for the landlord to refuse consent or place conditions on the consent.
Mandatory fees apply to all fixed-term agreements of three years or less, when a tenant ends the agreement early. This applies to agreements that are entered into from 23 March 2020 onwards.
The break fees are:
——four weeks rent if less than 25 per cent of the agreement has expired
——three weeks rent if 25 per cent or more but less than 50 per cent of the agreement has expired
——two weeks rent if 50 per cent or more but less than 75 per cent of the agreement has expired
——one week’s rent if 75 per cent or more of the agreement has expired
——if seven months of a 12-month tenancy agreement (or 58 per cent) has expired, a tenant would need to pay a fee equal to two weeks rent to the landlord to end the agreement early.
——if two months of a six month tenancy agreement (or 33 per cent) has expired, the tenant would need to pay a fee equal to three weeks rent to the landlord to end their agreement early.
Three copies, or one electronic copy, of this condition report should be ompleted and signed by the landlord or the landlord’s agent.
Two copies, or one electronic copy, of the report, which havebeen completed and signed by the landlord or the landlord’s agent, must be given to the tenant before or when the tenant signs the agreement. The landlord or landlord’s agent keeps the third copy or an electronic copy.
The tenant must return one copy of the completed condition report, or a completed electronic copy, to the landlord or landlord’s agent within 7 days after taking possession of the residential premises and is to keep the other copy or a completed electronic copy. The tenant is not required to do this if the landlord or landlord’s agent has failed to give the tenant either two copies, or one electronic copy, of the completed condition report (see 2 above).
Note: Photographs and/or video recordings are not a substitute for accurate written descriptions of the condition of the premises.
Important notes about this report:
a) It is a requirement that a condition report be completed by the landlord or the landlord’s agent and the tenant (see above). This condition report is an important record of the condition of the residential premises when the tenancy begins and may be used as evidence of the state of repair or general condition of the premises at the commencement of the tenancy. It is important to complete the condition report accurately. It may be vital if there is a dispute, particularly about the return of the rental bond money and any damage to the premises.
b) At the end of the tenancy, the premises will be inspected and the condition of the premises at that time will be compared to that stated in the original condition report.
c) A tenant is not responsible for fair wear and tear to the premises. Fair wear and tear is a general term for anything that occurs through ordinary use, such as the carpet becoming worn in frequently used areas. Intentional damage, or damage caused by negligence, is not fair wear and tear.
d) A condition report must be filled out whether or not a rental bond is paid.
e) If you do not have enough space on the report you can attach additional pages. All attachments should be signed and dated by all parties to the residential tenancy agreement.
f) Call NSW Fair Trading on 13 32 20 or visit fairtrading.nsw.gov.au for more information about the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants or before completing the condition report.