Prepare now for new residential tenancy laws

The NSW Parliament recently passed a number of amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 2010. With over 30% of the NSW population renting, these changes are designed to make it easier for tenants to make a rental property feel like home.

For landlords, it creates an opportunity to attract and retain high quality, long term tenants – providing greater income certainty on their investments.

The new laws also improve protections for victims of domestic violence.

The implementation date for the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Bill 2018, is expected to begin in the first half of 2020 so it’s important all landlords start planning now.

The Reforms in summary

A. Minimum standards identified

At the beginning of any tenancy, all properties will need to meet 7 minimum standards to be deemed fit for habitation. These standards will also need to be maintained throughout the tenancy (by way of repairs). While not an exhaustive list, these standards are considered the minimum baseline.

The 7 minimum standards are:

  1. The property must be structurally sound
  2. Each room must have adequate natural or artificial lighting (the exceptions are storage rooms or garages)
  3. There must be adequate ventilation throughout the property
  4. It must have an electricity and/or gas supply with adequate electricity and gas outlets for lighting, heating and appliances
  5. The property must have bathroom facilities (including toilet and bathing facilities) which provide user privacy
  6. The property must be connected to water supply infrastructure for the supply of hot and cold water for drinking, washing and cleaning
  7. The plumbing and drainage must be satisfactory

B. New resolution powers & rectification orders

The property management industry is plagued by disputes over repairs and maintenance issues along with claims of property damage caused by tenants. The new legislation is designed to reduce these problems by providing NSW Fair Trading with greater powers – including the ability to issue rectification orders.

C. Rent increases limited for periodic leases

Rent increases for periodic leases (that is, where the tenancy has no specified time limit) will be restricted to once every 12 months under the new laws.

D. Protections for victims of domestic violence

Tenants who need to escape a violent partner will be able to terminate their tenancy immediately and without penalty. In addition:

  • The victim/s will not be held accountable for any property damage that occurred during a domestic violence incident
  • The same is true if they are a co-tenant who is not the perpetrator
  • If a tenant terminates a lease because they are a victim of domestic violence, the landlord or their agent are prohibited from adding their name to the tenancy database

E. Separate meters for granny flats etc.

With the rise of dual occupancies, granny flats and the like, the Residential Tenancy Amendments include a new definition for “separately metered premises”. The purpose of this amendment is to reduce the number of disputes between landlords and tenants over who pays for water, electricity and gas.

F. Other changes

The amendments are quite comprehensive and include a number of other changes including:

  • The introduction of penalties for landlords or agents if they fail to provide the tenant with a property condition report at the beginning of the tenancy
  • Mandatory set fees for breaking a fixed-term lease
  • Penalties for landlords who fail to repair smoke alarms
  • Clarification on taking photos and videos during inspections and publishing them to advertise the property for re-lease or sale
  • Stopping database operators charging tenants to access their own information

Take care of your tenants and they’ll take care of your property

Your investment property is a valuable asset so it’s only natural you want to ensure it’s providing a great return on investment, with tenants that will take care of it.

This new legislation is designed to help you do that by providing tighter guidelines on what’s acceptable from both a landlord’s and tenant’s point of view.

For an informed and conscientious property manager to look after your investment needs, call Brigitte Stills on 1300 091 638 or email propertymanager@stillsproperties.com.au She’s been looking after landlords and their properties for over 30 years.


The 3 essentials of stress-free property management

Purchasing an investment property is exciting but also a large financial commitment. Whether you own one or several, you need tenants who are reliable, care for your property and pay their rent on time.

Some landlords choose to manage their own rental properties while others use a professional property manager. Whatever you choose to do, there are 3 essential elements to ensure your property investment generates good rental returns.

1. Securing the best tenants

Problematic tenants are costly and time consuming. It takes careful, strategic marketing and thorough screening of all potential tenants to ensure you quickly eliminate any troublesome ones.

The best tenants will respect your investment and treat it as if it was their own home. They will take good care of the property, promptly report any maintenance issues and pay their rent on time. Ideally, they will want to continue on in the property for years to come.

2. Minimising vacancies

Once you secure a great tenant, you’ll want to keep them for as long as possible. Therefore, tenant retention should be your top priority. Longevity in a tenancy equates to better returns on your property investment.

Relationship building, good communication and knowledge of the rental laws are the keys to building a long-term tenancy. It’s also important for any maintenance requirements to be dealt with in a timely manner.

3. Caring for your Investment

Regular property inspections are essential to ensure your investment is being looked after and any necessary repairs and maintenance addressed.

When carrying out routine inspections there are a number of things you should be looking for:

  • Is the tenant sub-letting the property?
  • How many people and/or pets are living at the property? Does this comply with the rental agreement?
  • Has furniture been placed to hide any damage?
  • Has the property been cleaned adequately to ensure there are no issues at the end of the tenancy?
  • Are smoke detectors in place and operational?

In most cases, tenants simply need education on their responsibilities for caring for the property.

Maximising the rental return on your investment property doesn’t happen by accident

Every landlord hopes their investment property appreciates so they see increases in their rental return. But successful, stress-free property management is never a “set and forget” investment. It takes active management and open communication between the property manager, landlord and tenant.

If you are looking for an experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated property manager, contact Brigitte at Stills Properties. She’s been managing investment properties for landlords for over 30 years.

For further information or to discuss your investment needs, call Brigitte Stills on 1300 091 638 or email propertymanager@stillsproperties.com.au


Prepare your investment property for winter

Winter is here and high time to assess your investment property for any potential or existing issues before they worsen. Conducting a basic winter maintenance check will not only protect your tenant, it’ll also safeguard your property and finances.

Here are some rental property maintenance precautions that landlords and tenants alike should consider as we move into the colder winter months. 

Test smoke detectors

House fires are more common in winter. Some of the causes of these fires are faulty electric blankets, heaters and appliances. While tenants must check the condition of their heating and electrical appliances before use, a smoke alarm is necessary (and required by law) to ensure the safety of the occupants in case of a fire.

Tenants are responsible for replacing the batteries and testing the device, but they must not interfere with or remove smoke alarms, without a reasonable excuse. We suggest landlords schedule annual smoke alarm maintenance checks to ensure they are operating effectively and notify the tenants. Fire and rescue NSW recommend you:

  • Test your property’s smoke alarm batteries monthly
  • Remove dust from the smoke alarm every six months
  • Replace the batteries once a year
  • Remove and fit a new smoke alarm unit every 10 years.

Service air-conditioning

If you have one or more installed in your investment property, you should make a point to clean or replace filters at the beginning of each season. Filters may need more upkeep if tenants have pets, such as dogs or cats, allow dust and dirt build up, or are big air-con users.

Treat mould

The most common cause of indoor house mould is moisture. Warm, damp rooms such as the bathroom and laundry are particularly prone to mould, especially in winter. During the colder months, tenants may open windows less frequently, especially after taking a shower or using the clothes dryer. Windows and walls become wet with condensation. Conversely, leaving windows and doors open in the early mornings and evenings brings the cool, moist air inside.

The best way to tackle mould is to ensure there’s adequate ventilation available. Make sure windows and doors can be opened easily – preferably during the warmer, sunnier parts of the day – and consider installing an exhaust fan. Let tenants know what to look for and how they can also prevent mould.

Clean gutters

It tends to rain more in winter. One of the most common winter household maintenance issues is blocked gutters and downpipes. These issues can cause all sorts of damage to your property, including leaking, rotting, rising damp, water damage, mould and in severe cases, affect the property’s foundations. If untreated, a minor issue can quickly escalate.

But it’s easy to prevent by making sure your gutters are free from leaves, twigs and other debris, especially before winter. If you don’t trust yourself on a ladder, you may prefer to hire a handyman to do the job.

Prevent slipping

Moss, mildew and algae can build up in damp, shady areas, particularly in winter. This can make driveways, paths and outdoor patios slippery and dangerous. While tenants are responsible for maintaining these areas, you should make sure they know what to do before winter and check they’re doing this at each inspection.

While there are many off-the-shelf products available to prevent moss and algae build up the issue can be easily managed by:

  • keeping the areas clean and free from leaves and debris and anything that causes the accumulation of moisture and
  • occasionally brushing and sweeping the surface.

Ongoing, proactive maintenance of your investment property, particularly during the winter months will protect your asset in the long-term.

Need more information?

Stills Properties has been managing investment properties for Sydney landlords for over 30 years, contact us to discuss your investment property management needs.


Is it time to review your property manager?

The slowdown in the current property market has seen more people renting than before. While this is good news for landlords, supply is still out-performing demand, which means the rental market is in the tenant’s favour.

Currently, there are over 2,500 properties for lease on Sydney’s North Shore alone. Property managers certainly have their hands full, but this mustn’t excuse poor service and performance.

Now more than ever, you need to make sure your property manager stacks up in today’s uber-competitive rental market.

From tenant complaints to irregular inspections, there are several signs it’s time to review your property manager.

You have bad tenants or tenant issues. If you find your property manager is continually placing unsuitable tenants who don’t pay their rent on time, or at all, disrespect or damage the property or disregard the neighbours, it’s possible your property manager is not conducting thorough tenant screening and background checks. You should have them explain their tenant screening process and tell them the type of tenant you want in your property. And you should also have them explain their rental arrears management procedure, as missed rent is one of the biggest concerns for landlords.

Your property manager is always changing. High staff turnover is not uncommon in property management, but if you’re frustrated to have a different contact each time you call, chances are your tenant is equally as frustrated. Continuity is key to building trust. Tell your property manager you want to know who is looking after your asset and that you expect a dedicated contact. If they can’t promise this, find out why. You don’t want issues within an agency to impact your property in the long-term.

You have a junior property manager. At the very least, your property manager should be marketing your property, dealing with prospects and tenants, collecting rent, handling maintenance and repair issues and responding to tenant complaints. But they should also provide their expertise; such as property market information, investment property advice and updates on legislation changes. Expertise comes with industry experience, which is unlikely to come from a junior property manager.

You’re managing your property manager. A good property manager should be proactive. If you find you’re having to contact them about your property, request regular updates, confirm when the tenancy agreement expires, ask when the smoke detector was last checked, or make sure your property is covered by the right insurance, you need to seriously consider finding a new property manager. Your time is your money. You shouldn’t need to spend time to make sure they’re on top of things at your property.

You receive irregular inspection reports. Periodic, routine inspections tell you and the property manager the condition of your property, how the tenants are looking after the property, if there are any maintenance issues or repairs that need to be addressed and if there are any issues from the tenant. They’ll also tell you how many people are living in your property. If you’re not receiving regular inspection reports or a regular monthly report, you need to know why. This is an important task for your property and the tenant, which should happen at least once every six months.  

You don’t trust their accounting. Your property is a source of income, so you should feel confident you’re receiving every dollar you’re entitled to. Property managers are responsible for holding money for you and the tenants and ensuring the right funds go into the right accounts. Trust accounting requires expert attention to detail. If you have any doubts or questions about your property manager’s record-keeping and accounting processes, you must raise this with them directly and have them take you through it until you feel confident. While spending time to review your property manager might seem like a hassle in the short-term, making sure you have the best property manager looking after your investment will give you peace of mind and cost savings in the long-run.

Need more information?

Stills Properties has been managing investment properties for Sydney landlords for over 30 years, contact us to discuss your investment property management needs.


How to make your property stand out in an oversupplied rental market

Recently, I met with the owner of a two-bedroom apartment in Neutral Bay who was struggling to attract tenants. He pointed to the flood of new properties in the area and believed his older apartment wouldn’t be able to compete in an oversupplied rental market.

While an oversupply means renters have more choice and bargaining power, as the landlord, the onus is on you to ensure your property stands out and is worth bargaining for.

Here are seven ways to make your property stand out in an oversupplied rental market to secure a great tenant and fetch the highest rent possible:

1. Create great first impressions, inside and out

First impressions matter when a prospective tenant inspects your property. Inspecting tenants are more attracted and willing to pay the asking price for a well-presented property.

While inside should be tidy and uncluttered, the outside is typically the first thing people see. So, it’s important to take into account the exterior of the property, including the lawn, paths, railings, gutters, and fencing.

If you own a strata unit, you should consider the condition of the common property, such as the foyer, stair wells, elevators, driveways and gardens. Speak with the owner’s corporation to ensure repairs and maintenance are upheld. The state of the building will influence the way prospective tenants perceive your unit.

2. Make it sparkle

Set a high standard of cleanliness. Make sure the property is clean, fresh, and hygienic in your listing photographs and on inspection day. The new tenant will know the condition the property must be in when they hand back the keys.

Consider having the carpets and window coverings professionally cleaned and removing grime and dust from windows and fly screens to allow in more light.

Rid the property of any odours, such as cigarette or pet smells, which can be easily detected by inspecting tenants.

2. Enhance the best features

Use professional photos to capture the features of your property in the best light and from the best angle. Professionally photographed properties stand out online; they grab the attention of prospective tenants, drive more enquiries and can result in getting your property leased faster.

To gain an even greater edge in a competitive market, you may want to consider property styling to enhance the ambience and functionality of your property – virtual stylists are an easy and affordable option.  

Stylists and experienced real estate photographers understand what appeals to tenants and know how to enhance the attractiveness of your property to maximise your listing.

3. Focus on the strengths

Marketing the property with an accurate description is essential but it’s also important to include stand out qualities of the property.

While you must include the essentials such as the number of rooms, specific features and rent cost, your description should also include attractive features that will appeal to a broad segment of tenants. This may include views, family-friendly street, proximity to transport, easy access to shops, schools, hospitals and other amenities.

If you’ve recently renovated, upgraded the appliances, or installed a pet door, make it known. This additional information could set your property apart from the one around the corner.

4. Fix what is broken

Make sure your property – from the front path to the back fence – is in good working condition. Which would you choose if you had the choice to rent a property in need of repair or one in perfect working order?

Fixing what is broken and doing small repairs and maintenance prior to inspection could prevent a bigger, more costly problem down the line. And could also cause less interruption and frustration for the tenant.

5. Tend to the small things

While tenants tend to prefer a new property, well-renovated and well-kept homes are often equally as appealing. Tending to the small, but important aspects of your property can add value.

If your property is tired and dated, interior cosmetic renovations are a cost-effective way to refresh the look and feel of your rental. This could include giving drab walls a fresh coat of paint, replacing well-worn carpet and updating lighting and other fixtures. These small things can add to the appeal of your property and potentially increase rent.

Before beginning any cosmetic renovation it’s a good idea to seek advice from your property manager about which improvements will deliver the best return.

6. Know the rules

Even in a competitive rental market it’s crucial that all aspects of your property meet current regulations, safety guidelines and efficiency standards. This includes pool fences, railings, balconies, blinds, windows, smoke detectors, and electrical and water. It’s important that you make certain all are in adequate working order prior to having new tenants. Ensure that all electrical wiring and power points are safe, including electrical appliances to be included in the tenancy. And be sure to take out comprehensive insurance cover on the property prior to the inspection, including public liability. Your property manager will be able to advise you of the laws relevant to your property.

I’m Brigitte Stills of Stills Properties. Contact me on 0419 426 038 if you’re looking for, or have, a property for let. Or, if you’re an Agent/Property Manager searching for more tips on how to succeed in a difficult rental market with pro-active marketing of the properties on your rent-roll.