Landlords' and tenants' rights after an emergency
When properties are affected by natural disasters like floods, bushfires or storms, tenants and landlords have rights and responsibilities under NSW laws.
What to do after a disaster
If you rent your home and it was damaged by flooding, storm or bushfire, you should contact your agent or landlord immediately.
If the home is wholly or partially uninhabitable because of damage you can either:
- give notice that you wish to end the tenancy
- maintain the tenancy and make a written agreement with your landlord to waive the rent while the property is uninhabitable.
For more information on the rights of tenants and landlords, visit NSW Fair Trading.
The home you are renting may need urgent repairs after a disaster. Your managing agent or landlord should attend to these repairs as soon as possible.
If you cannot contact them, you can arrange for the repairs to be done yourself. You must give the agent or landlord notice in writing of the repairs, including the costs and receipts.
Your landlord must pay for reasonable costs up to $1000 within 14 days of your notice.
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If the repairs are not urgent, the tenant and the landlord should agree to a timetable for repairs.
If the tenant moves out temporarily or continues living in the property, the rent should be waived or reduced.
This is up to the landlord and tenant to negotiate. Any agreement in these situations should be put in writing.
When your home is significantly damaged or destroyed
A landlord and tenant can agree to end a tenancy on the grounds that a tenancy is 'frustrated', if:
- the property is destroyed or
- the property becomes totally or partly uninhabitable.
Sometimes an agreement is not possible. In this case the tenant or landlord can give a written termination notice to end the tenancy on the basis the property is uninhabitable.
The tenant can move out temporarily and return once repairs have been carried out. The landlord is not obliged to find or pay for the tenant’s temporary accommodation.
If the property is only partly uninhabitable, the tenant can choose to stay in the property while repairs are being carried out. Tenants should only consider doing this if the damage is minor and there is no safety risk.
The tenant and landlord can formally end the agreement and re-sign a new agreement after the repairs are complete. Tenants should be aware that a higher rent could be included in the new agreement.
Find out more about ending a tenancy.
Payment of rent
The tenant remains responsible for the payment of rent until either:
- the agreement is terminated
- the tenant and landlord agree to a reduction in rent because the property was partially or totally uninhabitable.
Damage to belongings
Tenants are responsible for maintaining insurance on their belongings within the rented property. A landlord is not obliged to compensate the tenant for any damage to the tenant’s furniture or personal belongings.
If you have an issue with your tenancy following a disaster, try to resolve it with your landlord or managing agent first. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you may have the option of lodging an application with the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). NCAT provides an inexpensive and effective means of resolving consumer disputes.
Getting legal and insurance advice
Find legal and insurance advice from:
- the Disaster Response Legal Service run by Legal Aid NSW
- NSW Government Fair Trading natural disasters advice
- NSW Government Aboriginal Housing Service
- NSW Aboriginal Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Services.