Welcome to the latest edition of The Letterbox, NSW Fair Trading’s enewsletter about tenancy issues.

Falling behind with your rent

This edition of The Letterbox focuses on rent arrears which is a major cause of conflict between landlords and tenants. Did you know that last year more than 13,500 applications were made to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal to terminate a tenancy for non-payment of rent?

For a tenant the most important term of the tenancy agreement is paying your rent on time. But what happens when times get a little tough and you begin to fall behind?

The first thing you should do is to speak with your landlord or agent and discuss possible options, including a repayment plan. It is important to understand that if you do not pay your rent for more than 14 days and do not have a repayment plan, you might be issued with a termination notice. The landlord is only required to provide you with 14 days written notice to vacate the premises.

Tenants can find useful information on the Falling behind with your rent page on the Fair Trading website.

If you’re a landlord and your tenant hasn’t paid their rent, there are steps you can take to help the tenant pay their rent.

It is important you act early, ie. before the rent is 14 days behind. You might consider sending your tenant a late payment reminder or asking the tenant if they would like to change their payment method to make it easier for them. You could also put your tenant on a repayment plan to help them pay back any rent owing over a period of time. This involves regular additional payments on top of the ordinary rent, until the rent is caught up.

A termination notice, with 14 days written notice to vacate, can be issued when the tenant falls more than 14 days behind with their rent.

Landlords should go to the Non-payment of rent page on the Fair Trading website for more information.

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Answers to your questions about rent arrears

Q: Recently I lost my job, which means I am unable to pay my rent on time. I am afraid I will be evicted. What can I do?

A: If you are unable to pay all of the rent by the due date, you should contact your landlord or agent to talk about a repayment plan. A repayment plan is an agreement for the outstanding rent to be paid over a certain period of time, in addition to your normal rent payments. You and the landlord both need to agree on the plan in writing, including the payment amounts and dates.

More information is available on the Falling behind with your rent page of the Fair Trading website.

Q: Recently, my tenant was put on a rent repayment plan. Unfortunately, they have not been able to stick to the plan. What can I do?

A: If your tenant has not been making payments as agreed in the repayment plan, you can give them 14 days notice to terminate the agreement. The termination notice must be in writing and contain certain information, such as clearly stating a reason for the notice. At the same time, you can apply to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal for a termination order. There is a specific form for Tribunal orders relating to termination for non-payment of rent.

Further information is available on the Non-payment of rent page of the Fair Trading website.

Q: What are the time frames for issuing a termination notice if the tenant is behind with paying rent?

A: A termination notice can be served to a tenant when they fall more than 14 days behind with the rent. The notice must give the tenant at least 14 days to vacate the property. The notice must contain certain information for it to be valid. To assist landlords, there is a model Notice to terminate tenancy agreement available on the Forms page of the Fair Trading website.

If the tenant catches up on the rent arrears during the notice period, or enters into and complies with a repayment plan, then the tenant does not have to move out.

Q: Every time I issue my tenant with a termination notice and lodge an application at the CTTT they pay their rent. What are my options?

A: As a landlord, you can apply for an order from the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal where the tenant has a history of paying the rent late. The Tribunal can make an order that the tenancy will end, even if the tenant pays the rent they owe.

The evidence provided at the hearing will determine whether the Tribunal issues a termination order. Evidence could include your rent records, reminder letters sent to the tenant or previous applications to the Tribunal about rent arrears.

Landlords can find more information on the Non-payment of rent page of the Fair Trading website.

Q: I have received a termination notice for non-payment of rent. What should I do?

A: If you are able to catch up on the outstanding rent during the notice period stated in the termination notice, you will not have to move out. If you are unable to pay all of the rent by this date, you should contact your landlord or agent to talk about entering into a repayment plan

If you do not catch up the rent or move out, the landlord may apply for a termination order from the Tribunal. It is important that you attend the Tribunal hearing as this will be your opportunity to request an extension for rent repayments or ask for any other relevant matters to be considered. You should be able to provide evidence of when you can make these repayments.

Tenants can find more information on the Falling behind with your rent page of the Fair Trading website.

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Fair Trading online

Did you know Fair Trading has over 16,000 fans on Facebook, over 2,000 Twitter followers and our YouTube videos have been viewed almost 80,000 times?

Since joining the online conversation, Fair Trading has been actively communicating with our online audiences by providing up-to-date and relevant information.

You can become a fan of Fair Trading on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or watch one of our many YouTube videos.

Spread the word and share Fair Trading with your friends.

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New swimming pool laws

Drowning is a leading cause of preventable death in children under 5 years of age. Late last year a number of new laws were introduced to improve the safety of children around swimming pools in NSW.

These changes include:

  • Swimming pool owners are required to register their swimming pool. Pool owners will have until 29 October 2013 to register their pool.
  • From 29 October 2013 local councils will be carrying out inspection programs.
  • From 29 April 2014 all tourist, visitor and multi occupancy developments will require a valid compliance certificate if they have a swimming pool.
  • From 29 April 2014 a valid compliance certificate will be required to lease or sell any property with a swimming pool and will need to be attached to the sale contract or given to the tenant.

If you are a landlord and the property you are leasing has a swimming pool it is your responsibility to register the pool, and from 29 April 2014 obtain the compliance certificate. A representative, such as a managing agent, can arrange this on your behalf. If the property you lease is part of a strata scheme it is the responsibility of the owners corporation to ensure that their property complies with these new requirements.

If you are a tenant and the property you are leasing has a swimming pool you do not need to have it registered or obtain a compliance certificate as this is the landlord's responsibility. From 29 April 2014, landlords will be required to give new tenants a copy of a compliance certificate.

Visit the Swimming pools page on the Fair Trading website for further information, including how to register and obtain a compliance certificate.

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Stay safe online

Do you pay rent online? Do you make other property transactions on the internet?

The Australian Government has put together the www.staysmartonline.gov.au website with resources and tools to help us stay safe online. Here are the Government’s top five online security tips.

  1. Install and update your security software and set it to scan regularly
  2. Turn on automatic updates on all your software
  3. Use strong passwords and different passwords for different uses
  4. Think before you click on links and attachments
  5. Only download mobile apps from reputable publishers and read all permission requests.

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What would you like to know about?

Each issue of The Letterbox features a special focus on a particular tenancy topic. Fair Trading wants to know the special topic that you think the next edition should focus on. We invite you to email your suggestions and feedback to theletterbox@services.nsw.gov.au

The next edition of The Letterbox is due in August 2013.

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