Landlords and tenants rights in a flood
When properties are affected by natural disasters like floods, bushfires or storms, tenants and landlords have certain rights and responsibilities under NSW laws.
Financial assistance available
If you have been affected by severe weather and flooding in NSW you may be eligible for financial assistance.
Check if your Local Government Area (LGA) has been affected.
Renting in a flood
If you rent your home and it has been damaged by flooding, immediately advise your agent or landlord.
If the home is wholly or partially uninhabitable because of flood or water damage you can either:
- give notice that you wish to end the tenancy, or
- 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 after floods, visit NSW Fair Trading.
Notifying your agent or landlord
If the home you are renting needs urgent repairs after flooding, 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.
You must give the agent or landlord notice in writing of the repairs needed, including the costs and receipts.
Your landlord must pay for reasonable costs up to $1000 within 14 days of your notice.
Find out more at the Tenants’ Union of NSW.
Natural disasters can be stressful for renters and landlords dealing with urgent repairs and understanding who pays for what.
Evacuation centres can provide temporary shelter during disasters and insurance advice and legal support can be sought from different agencies, including:
- the Disaster Response Legal Service NSW
- NSW Government Fair Trading natural disasters advice
- NSW Government Aboriginal Housing Service
- NSW Aboriginal Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Services.
If the property is destroyed or becomes totally or partly uninhabitable, the landlord and tenant can mutually agree to end the tenancy on the grounds that the tenancy is ‘frustrated’. Read more about terminating a tenancy.
If no mutual agreement is possible, the tenant or landlord can give a written termination notice to end the tenancy on the basis the property is uninhabitable.
The termination notice may end the residential tenancy agreement on the date that the notice is given.
The termination notice may specify a date that is before the end of the fixed term of the residential tenancy agreement.
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 relatively minor and there is no ongoing 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.
Payment of rent
The tenant remains responsible for the payment of rent until either the agreement is terminated, or 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 from a natural disaster.
Serious storm, fire or flood damage are all considered to be urgent repairs and should be handled quickly. See Urgent repairs for more information.
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 partially damaged 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.
Financial support for tenants, landlords, owners and investors
If you need short-term accommodation support, you can now apply for the Rental Support Payment.
You can also use the disaster assistance finder or visit a flood recovery centre to get personalised support.
There are different support options for people in need of accommodation, including:
- rent assistance for those whose properties are unable to be lived in
- Back to Home Grant payments for homeowners and tenants whose properties are liveable but require repairs or replacement of belongings.
Back to Home Grant payment amounts are as follows:
- Owner/occupiers will receive $20,000.
- Tenants will receive $5000.
- Owner/investors will receive $15000. This relates to eligible owners who do not reside in the affected properties, including landlords and owners of properties that are usually uninhabited such as holiday homes.
The scheme will provide up to 16 weeks' rental support to flood victims in temporary accommodation and is scalable on the number of people per household including children.
Rent assistance payment amounts are variable and based on the number of members in the applied household:
- 1 person: $6,000
- 2 persons: $7,200
- 3 persons: $9,200
- 4 persons: $12,400
- 5 persons: $15,200
- 6 persons: $18,000.
Apply for the Back to Home Grant, request help with your application at Service NSW or call 13 77 88 for assistance.
In the first instance contact your landlord or managing agent. Any tenancy-related disputes following a natural disaster can be taken to the Tribunal.
Fair Trading is unable to intervene where a tenant has been issued with a Notice of Termination. NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) are able to make an enforceable order regarding these issues.
In the event that you are not satisfied with the outcome provided by the agency you may have the option of lodging an application with the NCAT for a determination on whether the agreement is considered 'frustrated' or if you are eligible for rent reduction.
NCAT provides an inexpensive and effective means of resolving consumer disputes and is capable of making enforceable orders.
Further details, including an application form and fee schedule, can be obtained from the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) website.
Applications can be lodged at any NCAT Registry Office for urgent hearing, Service NSW Centre or online.